Kimberly Graves wore a funeral black dress when holiday business casual would've been just fine.
Graves, the beleaguered Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs official who pleaded the fifth before a congressional committee investigating her for abuse of authority, won't face criminal prosecution after all.
Graves' early Christmas gift came from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The cases involving the St. Paul regional office director and a fellow department exec would be referred "to the VA for any administrative action that is deemed appropriate," read the office statement.
Graves had been accused of manufacturing a job transfer and inserting herself into the vacant position. While doing so, she'd pocketed $130,000 in moving expenses, took on a job with a drastically lightened workload, yet retained a $174,000 annual salary. As earlier reported by the Star Tribune, Graves also scored a $9,000 bonus at the same time she was a central character in a federal probe.
The career bureaucrat was dressed in black and sported a grave countenance before Veterans Affairs' Committee Chair Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) in early November.
"Ms. Graves," the chairman began, "[A government report concluded] you used your position of authority for personal and financial benefit. What evidence do you have that disputes that conclusion?"
"Upon advice of counsel," said Graves, "I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question."
Miller shotgunned more questions. Graves reiterated her right against self incrimination each time.
Former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch surmises the U.S. Attorney decided against prosecuting Graves and Diana Rubens, the former director of the VA's Philadelphia regional office, because proving the charges in court would have been tougher than the appearances of impropriety might suggest.
"It isn't just pressuring people to leave a job because that happens all the time in government and in the private world," Hatch says. "What you're tying it to is a motivation. … Man, you're going to have to work to prove that case. You're almost going to have to admit to it."
Like Graves, Rubens also invoked the fifth before Congress.
"[Since] they invoked the Fifth Amendment," adds Hatch, "you can't use that against them, so I'm assuming it's a matter of proof … Absent an admission, they'll come up with 15 reasons why they were right for the job. That's a tougher case than you think."
Graves had been demoted in late November. She was to be assigned as an assistant director in another state. However, the action hiccuped due to a paperwork snafu. The VA has said it will reissue Graves' demotion sometime in the near future.