President Joe Biden’s ATF director nominee corroborated more details about cheating allegations he made against an ATF agent during his time with the agency.
David Chipman, whose nomination was pulled a few weeks after news of the allegations were first reported by The Reload, confirmed he did accuse a black agent of cheating on a promotion assessment. He further confirmed the allegation was based on his judgment the agent had performed too well on the section of the assessment he oversaw. His comments confirm two parts of the black agent’s story which have not previously been corroborated.
“I believe it had to have been a bias,” the black agent, who retired with more than 25 years at the agency, told The Reload in August. “My answers were just ‘too good.’ And my thought is he just said, ‘this black guy could not have answered this well if he wasn’t cheating.'”
Chipman “emphatically” denied race played any role in the complaint and complained about the lack of pushback from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the story.
“There was no way I would have made it out of ATF honorably if there was merit to any of that,” Chipman said in an interview with USA Today and The Trace. “My frustration was that DOJ knew all of these facts and could have put a quick end to it. It hurt me personally.”
Reacting to Chipman’s latest comments, the black agent told The Reload he did not believe his denial that the cheating allegation was not racially motivated.
“I don’t believe him. Absolutely not,” the agent, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said. “He can try to clean it up as much as he wants. I think he believed that too many African Americans passed this particular certification.”
The agent maintained that he did not cheat on the assessment, and the Office of Inspector General investigation initiated by Chipman eventually exonerated him. Though, it did sideline him for two years while his name was cleared and handicapped his ability to move up in the agency. The agent further claimed that former deputy assistant director Willaim McMahon was the other ATF official involved in the part of the assessment Chipman participated in. He said McMahon did not back up Chipman’s claim the agent had cheated.
The Reload’s attempts to reach McMahon for comment through the ATF and the ATF Association, a group that represents former agents, were unsuccessful.
Chipman’s description of the investigation matches those initially shared by the black agent, as well as comments he allegedly made that prompted an agent to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint (EEOC) against him while he served in the agency’s Detroit office. A current and former ATF agent corroborated the existence of the racial complaint against Chipman in July. They said they had heard about the story contained in the complaint before news of its existence was uncovered during a FOIA suit filed by the American Accountability Foundation.
“He made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list,” a current ATF official told The Reload in July. “So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable.”
Despite Chipman’s protestation that DOJ did not defend him when the story came out, the department did deny the allegations of racial bias on his behalf. After confirming he initiated an investigation against an agent over cheating allegations, DOJ denied he was racist.
“Chipman served as an assessor for many ATF candidates of all backgrounds–and only once, in 2007, raised a concern about potential cheating by an individual to supervisors,” Dena Iverson, principal deputy director of DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs, told The Reload at the time. “Those concerns were considered serious enough that the inspector general decided to investigate them. Any allegations of bias against David Chipman are false and in the two times he was the subject of a workplace complaint over a 25-year career at the ATF, the claims were thoroughly investigated and found to be meritless.”
While the agent claims the investigation exonerated him, neither the DOJ nor Chipman have commented on its outcome. The DOJ also told The Reload it could not release the report. Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded the Inspector General release the investigation report shortly after news of it broke, but the report has yet to see the light of day.
The agent said he is unimpressed with the recent rehabilitation campaign Chipman has been engaged in and the soft-touch many major media outlets have given him since he failed to gain confirmation, often ignoring the allegations of racism levied against him in favor of focusing on how difficult the confirmation process was for him.
“Poor him,” the agent said. “Poor him.”
Still, he said he’s glad Chipman’s nomination ultimately failed.
“At least he won’t be doing it to someone else in ATF,” he said.