Catch us live on BlogTalkRadio every

Tuesday & Thursday at 6pm P.S.T.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Convicted sex offender in charge of hiring, disciplining VA workers


Tito Santiago Martinez appears on the sex offender registry after being convicted of five counts of lewd acts. His duties include vetting government employment applicants and he helps select new hires. (Getty Images)
A convicted sex offender works in human resources at Puerto Rico's Department of Veterans Affairs, where he is in charge of disciplining employees for wrongdoing.
Tito Santiago Martinez appears on the sex offender registry after being convicted of five counts of lewd acts including a minor under the age of 16 in 2007.
Santiago is employed by the government as a labor relations specialist, which advises management about disciplinary actions to take against employees, at the VA Caribbean Healthcare System. His duties include vetting government employment applicants and he helps select new hires.
Santiago said he applied to work at Veterans Affairs shortly after being charged with sex offenses, and disclosed it on his application. The department hired him anyway.
"The government security clearance takes a long time. When that issue came up in the clearance," he had already started working there, he said. The agency then removed him from his job, but he was later reinstated.
"They processed a removal, but then they looked into it and there was nothing to fire me for," he said. "I have a great record in the government. There's no children in [the hospital], so they figure I could not harm anyone here."
He said his daughter made false allegations against him, which were "not sexual … it was more like child abuse, and more like attempted, and they made a big deal of it." His daughter eventually admitted that she made up the allegations, he said, but then police said they wanted to charge her with making false reports.
"In order for them not to go after her, I made a plea" and was put on the sex offender list. "They wanted to go after her for contempt," he said.

The court records are sealed under a Puerto Rico rule designed to protect the identity of underage victims.
A doctor at the same VA hospital was also arrested and charged with possession of cocaine last month. Puerto Rico's Spanish-language news outlet NotiCel reported Feb. 6 that Dr. Dixon Matos Montalvo was caught by police conducting a prostitution sting.
DeWayne Hamlin, director of the VA's Caribbean network, was arrested in Florida last year after police said he was driving drunk and had opiate pills for which he didn't have a prescription, as the Washington Examiner reported last month. The charges were later dismissed over concerns about the legality of the traffic stop.
Caribbean Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Dominique Rojas would not say how a convicted sex offender working in human resources was in conformance with federal employment rules. She also wouldn't say whether Santos has faced any repercussion for the cocaine arrest, or whether patients were currently being treated by a doctor who may have a drug problem.
"The VA Caribbean Healthcare System (VACHS) does not comment on personal employee matters," she said in a statement.

The Examiner asked whether Veterans Affairs was conducting an investigation into why Hamlin, the facility's director, was carrying opiates for which he had no prescription in Florida, given that the state dropping the drunken driving charges for procedural reasons had no relation to the department's own interest in tracking whether painkillers were making their way from the hospital to recreational use.
The Examiner also asked whether Hamlin's case was reviewed by anyone not working for him. Hamlin is the highest ranking VA staffer in Puerto Rico. Rojas instead asked Hamlin, writing, "The director, VACHS, is not permitted to comment on behalf of the department regarding your allegations specific to him. However, he has reported that all state of Florida information of record pertaining to the matter has been expunged by court order."
Santiago's name appears as a management representative making recommendations on termination papers of numerous low-level workers who were fired for minor offenses, some of whom had raised concerns about agency practices to management or lodged formal complaints.

The department moved to fire Joseph Colon after he informed Washington headquarters of Hamlin's arrest, saying that he violated the chain of command and was guilty of "talking to others, gathering information" and tapping his fingers on his desk too loudly, causing an annoyance.
After an investigator, Rosayma Lopez, refused to recommend Colon's dismissal, VA managers submitted paperwork to fire her instead, naming that refusal as the cause.
Asked about the inconsistency between managers with criminal backgrounds and whistleblowers fired for seemingly pretextual reasons, Santiago said "I haven't fired one like that yet," but noted that "there's a lot of rules about disclosing information to the public."
Santiago previously worked at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture.

"They all have problems with whistleblowers, but not to the point where they fire them. I've seen a case at FDIC in which the employee was fired because they complained about the examination of a bank, but it's probably because he went outside the agency for something that could be resolved inside," he said.