ATF Whistleblower Claims Agency Giving Bonuses to Unqualified Employees

A former information specialist for the ATF claims that the agency is giving bonus pay to unqualified employees. (Photo: CBS)

Speaking to CBS, an Army veteran and whistleblower formerly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, is alleging that the agency is employing a bonus system that could be costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The scheme involves what’s known as Law Enforcement Availability Pay, or LEAP bonus pay. These LEAP bonuses are offered to select employees that perform special investigative duties which requires them to be on-call and work unscheduled hours.

Employees eligible for LEAP bonuses get a 25 percent increase over their base pay as compensation for their additional work. The whistleblower is alleging that employees in administrative positions are receiving LEAP bonuses even if they don’t qualify for them.

“So, if you were making $100,000 and you got LEAP, you would get $125,000,” the whistleblower said, asking to remain anonymous with just the name “Joe.”

“If you were functioning in an administrative capacity, you don’t qualify for the pay,” he said. “So you’re not supposed to get it. A lot of people were getting it.”

A former information specialist with the Human Resources Department, the whistleblower eventually lost his job after raising concerns about the LEAP bonuses going to administrative employees, not just investigators.

Emails from his supervisors indicate that they were upset about Joe’s complaints.

SEE ALSO: Biden Nixes Chipman’s Nomination to Head ATF

According to records, the whistleblower’s performance reviews went from “fully successful” in 2019 to “minimally successful” after making a complaint about the pay issues, eventually dropping to “unacceptable performance” before losing his position last summer.

Joe said the message was simple. “Don’t look over there,” he said. “Just because you see someone stealing money out of the ATM, you don’t have to say anything.”

An attorney with the Office of the Special Counsel, or OSC, began investigating the ATF last year. According to those reports, the OSC found “a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing.” The Office of Personnel Management found that approximately 94 inappropriately classified employees in an audit, and suspended the ATF’s authority to create certain jobs.

The OSC concluded that their audit has “broad implications” for the ATF.

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Robert Leto October 11, 2021, 9:15 am

    I don’t see any reason that any government employees should get bonuses
    They sign a contract they shouldn’t get anything more than a sustainable pre – established annual percentage increase after review

  • Clint W. October 8, 2021, 10:07 am

    I used to get 10% increase in pay for ‘B’ shift, and 25% for midshift in my unionized work years ago. When I was required to carry a beeper or call in my next location when off duty on nights and weekends for call back, the union fought for compensation for that, which the company refused to pay, and went to an ‘available’ list, meaning they would call down the employee list until they got someone when needed. That was time and half, and double time on holidays. This LEAP does not sound too different, but in one area it is, office personnel and management did not get it, they were ‘salaried’ employees meaning they got an annual salary no matter what hours they put in, versus us ‘hourly’ employees that were paid for their time. Something to do with Title 5 regulations, but since I was never an office worker, did not care.

  • Jeff S October 8, 2021, 8:38 am

    Just because that’s how it is throughout all of the federal agencies doesn’t mean that it is right. So someone gets assigned to a file room for 4 years and they get an extra years worth of page during that time? That’s bull. For example, when you are in the army you get flight pay or hazardous duty incentive pay when you are performing flight duties for a given month or in a hazardous assignment for a given month, not all of the time just because you can be sent to those places. Another example of b******* entitlement government bloat.

    • Grumpy Old Biker October 8, 2021, 10:36 am

      Jeff S. —
      Typical of most people who think others are getting something and you’re bitter because you’re not getting it. You chose to take another job. I don’t begrudge them their overtime because I wouldn’t want that job. The built-in 25% is considered part of their compensation. It is not comparable to flight pay or danger pay. You just want to think it is.

  • Grumpy Old Biker October 8, 2021, 7:42 am

    ATF does enough stupid shit, so they shouldn’t be screwed over when they’ve done nothing wrong — which is seldom, if ever. But this entire fiasco is idiotic.

    I believe EVERY federal law enforcement pays LEAP (law enforcement availability pay) to their qualified employees, and ALWAYS have. The qualification is based on their permanent employment classification, not the type of assignment they are performing at any given point in their career. That is what this moronic “whistleblower” is overlooking, quite intentionally. He is simply a disgruntled twat monkey who got fired and now just wants to raise hell. His allegations are full of mischaracterizations and falsehoods. For one thing, LEAP is not a bonus system at all — nothing like it. (Nor is it a “scheme”, as the ignorant tool who wrote this article alleges.) LEAP is paid to every employee who was hired under the classification of a law enforcement officer (LEO), including all criminal investigators/special agents/deputy U.S. marshals, etc., from the first day they come on the job through retirement. It is intended to replace traditional overtime pay (time-and-a-half) that regular state and local LEO’s get. When a federal LEO is assigned to a desk job, such as at their agency HQ, they simply continue to receive it until they are reassigned to the field. Technically they are subject to call-out every day of their career. It would be unfair and ridiculous to take LEAP away from these employees at certain times in their careers when they are assigned to office duties. Who can absorb such a wildly fluctuating change in their salary? The only people who have ever raised hell about this have been a small percentage of extremely petty and small-minded individuals (such as this delusional, alleged whistleblower) who held positions outside of any LEO classification. If those people want LEAP, they can work hard, get a college degree, pass the test (unless they are minority or female, in which case passing the entrance exam is waived — yes, with ATF and most, if not all, of the other federal agencies, only white males have to pass the entrance exam), then they can successfully complete a year of training, including two intense three-or-four-month-long stints at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (or however long the DEA and FBI academies are in Quantico). Then these otherwise potential whistleblowers can work nights, weekends and holidays for years on end without getting any more than the 25% LEAP (unless it is scheduled in advance), no matter how many hours are worked. To characterize it as a selective “bonus system” bestowed upon favored employees is pure fabrication and intentional misrepresentation. To take away this LEAP pay during those times in the career of an LEO when they are assigned to HQ or desk duties in the field would present an unfair hardship, especially for those who didn’t volunteer for that assignment to advance their careers and enhance their potential for promotion. It’s bad enough that LEO’s who work at their agency’s HQ lose their take home government vehicle for the duration of that assignment, but to remove a huge hunk of their pay would make such positions difficult to fill. The American taxpayers are NOT getting fleeced by ATF (and all the other LE agencies), at least not this time. This is possibly the stupidest and most dishonest accusation I’ve ever seen leveled at any law enforcement agency. As I said, ALL the other federal LE agencies do this, as well as ATF, and they always have in one form or another, in varying percentages depending on the agency, for over fifty years — though it has only been called LEAP for about the past thirty years. If it is wrong then they will have to make enormous changes, but this is no “scam”. The salaries of all LE-classified employees are included in every agency’s budget ever submitted to Congress, and they have always included LEAP pay. For shit’s sake, ATF has always been run by complete dumbasses and does enough stupid things — jump on those with both feet but don’t get all excited about stupid shit like this.

    • Pantexan October 8, 2021, 9:02 am

      Have they changed their name again? I thought they were the BATFE or something like that. WTF these a-holes get bonus pay whether they ride a desk, work their normal work week or they are out in the field? This needs to end!

      • Grumpy Old Biker October 8, 2021, 10:50 am

        To doubled-down on your idiocy with this comment. ATF has always been just a TLA (three-letter acronym). ATF. For the past fifty-some years, since they were removed from the IRS and elevated to full Bureau status. All their badges, legal documents, uniforms, and everything else in the entire government that has to do with ATF calls that agency just “ATF”, even after “Explosives” was added to the name around twenty years ago.

        The only goofs and morons who have ever called them BATF or BATFE have been ignorant, uneducated or just recalcitrant.

        It’s a shit agency but it’s still just “ATF”. Always has been.

        • Pantexan October 8, 2021, 11:39 am

          What dick troll for the overpaid under worked federal police forces. If you ever wanted to retire in place the federal government is the place to do it.

      • Grumpy Old Biker October 8, 2021, 11:05 am

        I forgot about the second facet of your comment that shows your ignorance: it’s not bonus pay. Its part of their total compensation and it is supposed to take the place of otherwise legally required overtime pay throughout their career. Sometimes they work less than others but it is all designed to work out in the end. It would probably cost the government a great deal more if it were required to pay each LEO in the federal government time-and-a-half for every hour they work in excess of forty hours per week (or X amount per pay period, whatever). You read one poorly written and biased article and got yourself all worked up and start demanding this be stopped without even truly knowing a thing about it. Just shut up, fool.

        • Pantexan October 8, 2021, 11:42 am

          Ah! More from the troll. They took the job knowing what the pay was and what the work entailed. If they don’t like it or expect more go get a real job and get off the federal government teat.

  • Dr Motown October 8, 2021, 5:42 am

    LOL! What do you think happens when the fox is put in charge of the henhouse?

    • Grumpy Old Biker October 8, 2021, 7:42 am

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

      • Pantexan October 8, 2021, 12:09 pm

        Sounds like neither do you.

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