Passing position of public trust investigation?
August 18, 2012 9:59 PM   Subscribe

My employer is going to soon require that myself and other employees receive a "Position of Public Trust - High" classification. My credit is not good and I'm married to a person who is not a US citizen, though is a permanent resident and is from a country that the US likes. There's a couple of other minor snowflake bits, but, overall, how big of a deal is this going to be?

In addition to the foregoing, I am also applying to find out if I am a dual citizen by birth to my mother. (She was adopted from a country that the US likes.) The PPT manual I found online says that it's a problem if a person is a dual citizen and holds a passport from the non-US country, a passport I fully intend to have if I am actually found to be a citizen of that other country.

My credit mostly consists of over $80,000 in student loans--in deferral because I'm still in school (not continuing to borrow) but paying on them--a bankruptcy from less than seven years ago (dismissed), five "seriously delinquent" accounts from the bankruptcy totaling between $10,000 and $15,000, a couple of recently paid-off car loans, and a small credit card that is current.

I've been with my employer for over 9 years, so I have stable employment history, though I do move around a lot (different apartments or rental houses in the same area). My employer hasn't asked me if I want to go through this process, I've been told that I'm on the list to do so but I've also been told that I won't be fired if I flunk but I don't want to go through the full investigation if I'm going to be bounced out.

If absolutely necessary, I can push harder to make payment arrangements on the delinquent accounts. I don't want to, for personal reasons, but it's a possibility.

If you've gone through this process, do you have any insight?

My employer is being genuine when they say I won't be fired. This certification is to work on a new project which is an expansion of our existing, very large, project. I've made the question anonymous to avoid linking some information to my MeFi username that could identify me to people who know me.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're not in a good spot here. Your financial situation is going to be your biggest challenge. The seriously delinquent accounts are the killer, especially tied in to the bankruptcy. One of the concerns for PT-High positions is that the employee can use their position to realize personal gain. And, someone who is in a bad position financially is seen as having a strong desire to get out of those circumstances.

The student loans should be a non-issue, as you describe them.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:35 AM on August 19, 2012

I'm not sure what your situation is. I do know that starting to pay off any delinquent accounts is going to help you. Also get credit counseling, they will want to see that you are doing things to make sure you are trying.

See guideline F of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines. Not 100% sure this is what your agency will use, but it gives you the gist.

If this were a security clearance, they would use these guidelines.

Also, you are helped by the large number of people having these issues right now.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:00 AM on August 19, 2012

Whatever you do, do not lie, misstate, gloss over, falsify, evade, misrepresent, distract, deceive, or perjure yourself on the question form. Answer every question to the best you can, and make a specific note if you don't know the answer to a question rather than leaving it blank. The only serious problems I've seen have with their classifications/clearances is where they lie on their application. The people processing the forms have an amazing ability to figure out what you are trying to hide. If you deliberately try to hide something, that will hinder your investigation. If you put something out in the open, they will either accept it as-is or work with you on it. If you want some further details on this, feel free to [m]email me.

Is that complete enough a list?

Unlike security clearances, I am under the impression that positions of public trust are not affected by foreign influence, so your wife's nationality is not an issue (that said, I do know of people with security clearances that have foreign national wives, but they are very closely investigated). I have not been able to find a citation for that with a quick search, so keep that in mind. I don't know if that would go as far as allowing you to have dual nationality. It would be expected that for a security clearance that you renounce your second citizenship.
posted by saeculorum at 7:06 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's what I said in a previous thread about clearances:

From what little I know about clearances (in the US), it seems like one huge question they have is, "are you open to blackmail?" Therefore, if you have a gambling addiction, drug addiction, secret penchant for hookers, etc., then you are likely to get turned down not for being a bad person, but for being someone who could get blackmailed. In your case, it seems like being upfront about it right off the bat will help make it clear that you have no problem with your past, and it's not something you feel you need to hush up - therefore, you're not at risk for getting blackmailed.

Basically, don't let your emotions get involved. It's just business. Having this classification isn't really that different from CPR certification or a commercial truck driver's license. It's a piece of paper that lets you do certain things. It's not a referendum on whether you're a good person, whether you made good financial decisions, married the right person, etc.

As you fill out your application, look at it from the perspective of the investigator. If you end up being a spy, thief, or psychopath, is the investigator going to get in trouble? Is the Washington Post going to be running op-eds asking "what idiot let THAT loose cannon through?"

I think things they really care about are:
* Does this person have debt that will make him/her tempted to steal or do other bad things?
* Does this person have vices that will create debt (see above)?
* Does this person have foreign connections will tempt him/her to pass on information?
* Does this person have secrets that make him/her vulnerable to blackmail?

So debt, vices, foreign connections and secrets per se are not dealbreakers. But you should be very explicit about why your situation does not make you a threat to security. Debt that you have a plan to pay off is very different from debt stemming from an untreated and ongoing gambling addiction.

The only thing that looks like a possible dealbreaker is the dual citizenship and having a foreign passport. How important is the passport to you? And how valuable is having the classification? In some areas / industries having a security clearance means it's easier to get jobs and you get paid more. I don't know how it is in your industry, but you might want to choose the Position of Public Trust classification over the passport at this point in your career.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:10 AM on August 19, 2012

I don't know much about positions of public trust, but I do know a little about security clearances and will echo what saeculorum said, repeating it for emphasis:

Whatever you do, do not lie, misstate, gloss over, falsify, evade, misrepresent, distract, deceive, or perjure yourself on the question form.

I don't think we know enough to say whether or not your background will raise any red flags, but I can tell you that misrepresenting yourself is about the worst possible thing you can do during a background investigation. Being honest about your past financial difficulties and what you're doing to resolve them is the best thing you can do.

I wouldn't think being married to a non-US citizen would be a show-stopper (although it might warrant closer investigation), but having dual citizenship could cause issues (at least if this were security clearance; I don't know if this also holds true for a public trust clearance).
posted by photo guy at 4:27 PM on August 19, 2012

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