NIST Officer Sentencing Postponed, Letter Alleges Misconduct

Sentencing did not take place as scheduled for a former National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) security guard who pled guilty to making less than 5 grams of methamphetamine at the federal facility.

Christopher Bartley was set to be sentenced on Nov. 19 in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt but the case was off the docket that day. The press phone number for the U.S. District Court of Maryland went straight to a mailbox that was full.

The 41-year-old faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence after he allegedly attempted to manufacture the illegal drug under a chemical fume hood on July 18, which caused an explosion that blew out four shatterproof windows and injured Bartley.

He resigned his position the next day and sent an email to a supervisor admitting he was trying to make meth, federal officials said. Bartley was charged one month later.

The U.S. Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which oversees the federal facility, launched an inquiry shortly after the explosion. In a letter dated Sept. 30 and sent to NIST Director Willie E. May, committee chairman U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith stated that briefings held have not provided answers to all the members’ questions and information recently obtained by the committee “appears to show a culture of waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct by NIST Police Services” that was not immediately disclosed during the initial investigation.

The committee asked for building access records where the explosion took place. The letter states that one NIST official said they could have the records but another later informed the committee via email that “NIST cannot make any further comment on the badging records at this time” because of the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General’s ongoing review.

“This Committee has a legitimate interest in the safety of NIST employees and ensuring that agency property is not used to produce illegal drugs,” the letter states. “The building access records are essential to the Committee’s oversight.”

The committee also discovered Bartley “allegedly had sexual relations with other NIST employees on agency property, in vehicles owned by the government, while on official duty,” the letter states. “More troubling, it appears that agency officials were aware of Mr. Bartley’s conduct but failed to take appropriate disciplinary actions and even selected him as interim chief of police despite his misconduct.”

Documents reviewed by the committee show time and attendance fraud occurred regularly at NIST Police Services. One example given was Bartley allegedly worked 84 hours of overtime during a two-week period in April 2014 in addition to his full-time shifts. Thousands of dollars of police equipment, including listening devices and emergency response team equipment, is unaccounted for or missing, according to the letter. “If this information is accurate, it raises serious questions about the lack of internal agency controls at NIST.”

The letter asks for building access records where the explosion took place from January to August, all documents and communications regarding Bartley, and the internal investigation of the explosion, and misuse of government vehicles, overtime pay and missing police equipment.

All of the requested documents have been turned over to the committee, said Jennifer Huergo, NIST director of media relations. The committee also took part in a site visit on Oct. 7.

An email request for comment from the committee’s media relations was not returned.