The state Department of Justice has fired the agent who alleged his supervisor was illegally selling and manufacturing guns without a license and possessed a stolen machine gun.
In an Oct. 10 letter from Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John, Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Dan Bethards was accused of numerous rule and policy violations, many of them related to his allegations of misconduct against his former boss, Jay Smith.
Bethards’ allegations sparked an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In August, authorities declined to press charges against Smith, whom Bethards had accused of making customized weapons without a license for fellow law enforcement agents, including Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
Smith supervised Bethards in DCI’s Superior office until it closed in July. The DOJ wouldn’t say if an internal investigation into Smith’s conduct is underway.
“On numerous occasions during the period October 2, 2012, through Sept. 12, 2013, you violated several DOJ and DCI work rules and policies,” according to the letter from St. John. “Of particular concern is the public trust implication of your conduct and statements.
“The position of special agent places the highest expectations of trust in employees to act honestly, reasonably, rationally and responsibly. You have failed to meet those expectations.”
St. John wrote that Bethards’ allegations of illegal activity by Smith were not sincere because he did not report them immediately.
“An agent with high integrity would not sit on this information if he or she believed it to be true,” St. John said.
But in an interview Thursday, Bethards said the delay was caused by his angst over the likelihood of losing his job of 14 years.
“I was struggling with this whole thing for a long time. I knew what this would mean — it would end my career,” he said.
Bethards, a former undercover narcotics agent, said the letter was “full of a lot of garbage” and that he has evidence to refute most of the allegations.
He has filed three complaints with the state Department of Workforce Development claiming retaliation by DOJ under the state whistleblower law. DOJ officials have denied retaliating against Bethards.
Bethards had been on leave since October 2012. He said he took a stress-related break from work as he contemplated whether to report Smith to his superiors and federal officials, which he did in December.
When the DOJ’s psychologist cleared him for duty in late May — saying the stress was caused not by the job but “something external to the job” — the agency immediately put Bethards on paid leave while it investigated unspecified rules and policy violations.
In the letter, St. John said Smith denied Bethards’ most explosive allegation — that he possessed a stolen U.S. government machine gun. He called the allegation “baseless, dishonest, and in violation of numerous DOJ rules and policies.”
But Bethards, a federally licensed gun manufacturer, stands by the charge, saying Smith had asked him to procure parts for a stolen machine gun. He also noted that the letter made no mention of his allegations that Smith was manufacturing and selling guns without a license.
The letter also criticized Bethards for alleging to other agents and to the media that DOJ was “covering up” for Smith.
“DCI management was not engaged in a cover up,” St. John wrote, saying the agency notified the ATF as soon as Bethards came forward with his allegations.
But Bethards said he told fellow agents and the press about the allegations only after months went by and DOJ failed to launch an internal investigation against Smith.
“Where do you go to when the top cop in the state turns his head and does nothing?” Bethards asked.