Failure to sign a formal separation agreement can have dire consequences for rank-and-file State Department employees, an agency whistle-blower told The Daily Caller.
That is in stark contrast to what happens to top-level officials such as former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton if they refuse to sign the separation form, OF-109.
Ramifications for lower-level State Department employees include the withholding of retirement benefits and possible investigations conducted by the agency into why employees declined to sign the form, whistle-blower Richard Higbie says.
By signing OF-109, agency employees affirm that they have turned over all records — classified or unclassified; emails or physical documents — pertaining to official government business.
Whether or not Clinton — who used a private email account hosted on a private server to conduct official business — signed the document when she left office in Feb. 2013 was finally answered on Tuesday by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Psaki said that it does not appear that Clinton signed the document when she left the agency.
She added that it does not appear that Clinton’s predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, signed the exit document either.
Though signing OF-109 is listed in the Foreign Affairs Manual as one of the requirements outgoing employees must fulfill before leaving the agency, Psaki sought to downplay the issue.
“We’re not aware of any penalty for not signing it,” she told reporters. “It’s not a violation of any rule.”
“It’s not clear that this form is used as a part of a standard part of checkout across the federal government or even at the State Department,” she continued. “We’re looking into how standard this is across the federal government and certainly at the State Department.”
But Higbie strongly disputed that claim, saying that while it may not have consequences for officials like Clinton, career agents have to sign the form.
“You don’t have a choice,” he told TheDC. “They will not give you your retirement benefits if you don’t sign the separation agreement.”
Higbie, a 17-year veteran of the agency who works as a criminal investigator, spoke to TheDC about the agency’s double-standards regarding how top-level officials versus career employees are treated.
“There’s a big distinction between a secretary appointed for four years and specialist government employees or full-time department employees,” Higbie said. Full-time employees “have to sign the [agreement],” he said.
“If you don’t sign the separation agreement any pay that’s coming to you, any retirement benefits or anything you put into 401ks, none of that’s going to come to you if you don’t sign the separation agreement,” Higbie said.
The ramifications for not signing OF-109 can go beyond even that, Higbie claims.
“If you don’t do the separation agreement they can then initiate investigations as to why you’re not doing that,” he said.
“And further, if you don’t sign that agreement not only can you not get your benefits they can then look at proceeding with a termination from you versus a separation from you because you didn’t complete the required steps of separation.”
TheDC filed a Freedom of Information Act request last week for OF-109 records for Clinton and several of her top aides.