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Sources: Social Security judge accused of racial, sexual remarks removed from hearings

By   /   August 23, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 32 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MADISON, Wis. — The administrative law judge accused of sexual harassment and making racially and sexually charged comments about claimants has been removed from the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review hearing roster, Wisconsin Watchdog has learned.

And agents from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General are back in Madison this week conducting wide-ranging interviews for an investigation into corruption allegations, multiple sources say.

Judge John Pleuss’ hearings have been reassigned and he has been removed from the full docket of hearings and claims review, according to internal sources.  Pleuss is not listed on the calendar through the rest of the year, ODAR employees said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s retired, fired, or suspended. But it does mean the claimants are no longer subjected to this nonsense,” one source told Wisconsin Watchdog.

Watchdog.org file photo

ONGOING INVESTIGATION: Sources say agents from the Office of the Inspector General are conducting an extensive investigation into allegations of misconduct and retaliation against whistleblowers at the Madison ODAR facility.

A spokesman for the Social Security Administration has repeatedly said the agency cannot speak on personnel matters but that it doesn’t tolerate retaliation, intimidation, or harassment in the workplace.

Word of Pleuss’ removal from the schedule comes three weeks after internal documents showed the embattled administrative law judge was quietly being moved back into the hearing rotation.

An ODAR hearing schedule from early August showed Pleuss presiding over disability review cases again in September. He had been missing from the hearing list in the wake of the scandal surrounding him.

RELATED: Social Security judge investigated for harassment heading back to hearings

Pleuss is accused of awarding disability benefits based on a claimant’s physical attractiveness.

As Wisconsin Watchdog first reported in June, Pleuss in his notes to legal assistants described claimants as “attractive,” “innocent-looking,” “buxom.” In one case, he noted a “young, white (woman)”appearing before him “looks like a man.”

“Obese, young, white (female) skimpy black top,” he wrote of another claimant.

“Very black, African looking (female),” the judge wrote, and parenthetically he added,“(actually a gorilla-like appearance).”

In other “writing obstructions” penned by Pleuss to his legal assistants he notes he is approving the female claimant’s appeal for disability payments, calling her “credible.” He also goes on to write “she looks like she was ‘rode hard and put away wet.’”

While Madison ODAR group manager and whistleblower Deborah Holland was stripped of her management duties after she went public with allegations of misconduct and retaliation at the office, Pleuss had been allowed to return to the hearing schedule.

Evan as SSA’s Office of Inspector General conducts its investigation into Pleuss and other allegations of corruption, harassment and retaliation in the Madison and Milwaukee offices, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds an inquiry into ODAR manager conduct, the schedule had noted Pleuss was scheduled to hear 35 cases in September.

Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, have warned the Social Security Administration not to retaliate against whistleblowers, and Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, has instructed SSA to cooperate with the committee’s inquiry.

Sources say the agency has failed to turn over numerous documents the committee has requested. And whistleblower Ron Klym, a veteran legal assistant at the Milwaukee ODAR facility, has been fired.

Part of 61 in the series Deadly Delays
  1. Deadly Delay: Whistleblower alleges misconduct, incompetence in Social Security office
  2. Johnson seeks answers to Social Security whistleblower’s charges
  3. Social Security disability program has plenty of problems elsewhere
  4. Social Security whistleblower placed on administrative leave
  5. Social Security disability agency has history of punishing whistleblowers
  6. Senator to Social Security Administration official: ‘I would say the system is rigged’
  7. Whistleblower: ‘I want to do my work without fear of retaliation’
  8. Social Security whistleblowers ‘coming out of the woodwork’
  9. Social Security whistleblower suspended after going public with complaints
  10. Social Security whistleblower questioned by investigators after going public
  11. Social Security whistleblower now faces firing
  12. Social Security officials not answering questions about whistleblower retaliation
  13. ‘Culture of corruption and cover-up’ alleged in Madison Social Security office
  14. Ron Johnson: We’re tracking down abuse allegations in Social Security agency
  15. Senate committee presses for answers from troubled Social Security Administration
  16. Sources: Social Security judge suspended in wake of Madison scandal
  17. Attorney seeks appeal of decisions by Social Security judge accused of ‘sexy’ comments
  18. Social Security appeals judge pleads guilty to retaliation charge
  19. More retaliation despite investigation, Social Security office sources say
  20. Openly gay whistleblower at Social Security office claims intimidation, retaliation
  21. Wheels of justice turn frustratingly slow for Social Security whistleblowers
  22. Baldwin joins Johnson in calling for ‘immediate action’ on Social Security misconduct claims
  23. Documents: Social Security judge wrote claimant was ‘rode hard and put away wet’
  24. Social Security judge investigated for harassment heading back to hearings
  25. Social Security judge accused of misconduct refuses to step aside, sources say
  26. Whistleblower at scandal-plagued Social Security office seeks restraining order against manager
  27. Whistleblower report alleges widespread waste, fraud, abuse at Social Security office
  28. Sen. Johnson to Social Security commissioner: Retaliation will not be tolerated
  29. Baldwin warns Social Security Administration not to retaliate
  30. Social Security Administration fires whistleblower
  31. Who is protecting Social Security whistleblowers?
  32. Sources: Social Security judge accused of racial, sexual remarks removed from hearings
  33. Social Security office director removed from Madison facility, sources say
  34. Senate committee probe into Social Security whistleblower retaliation continues
  35. Madison Social Security office like ‘giant dysfunctional family,’ source says
  36. Damage spreads at scandal-plagued Social Security office
  37. Fired Social Security whistleblower gets no help from federal whistleblower protector
  38. One month later, Social Security whistleblower still without job, pay, answers
  39. Federal agents stepping up investigation into troubled Social Security offices
  40. Investigation into troubled Social Security offices in a ‘holding pattern’
  41. Recent weeks bring shake-up at scandal-plagued Social Security offices
  42. Top judges resign at troubled Social Security Chicago headquarters
  43. Social Security chief judge retiring amid cloud of scandal
  44. Troubled Social Security disability claims agency promotes ‘positive organization culture’
  45. Senate inquiry into scandal-plagued Social Security offices plods along
  46. Social Security whistleblower: ‘Everything has been compromised’
  47. Sources: Social Security judge accused of sexual harassment removed from Madison office
  48. Fired Social Security whistleblower won’t be taking whistleblower protection training
  49. Letter: Social Security judge under fire granted power to decide
  50. Sources: Social Security judge accused of deciding cases on sex appeal retires
  51. Johnson seeks GAO review of alleged Social Security ‘shell game’
  52. Social Security judge demanded $65,000 expanded bathrooms
  53. Investigation finds abuse, law-breaking, no retaliation at Madison Social Security office
  54. Report: Social Security managers gambled, watched Packers at Lambeau on taxpayer dime
  55. Inspector General releases major findings of probe into troubled Social Security office
  56. Social Security whistleblower waiting for answers in privacy breach case
  57. A whistleblower’s story: Paying the price for shining a light
  58. Fired SSA employee featured in Watchdog investigation is ‘Whistleblower of the Year’
  59. Social Security whistleblower calls out agency, media in receiving award from journalists
  60. SSA whistleblowers ask, where’s the justice?
  61. Probes into troubled Social Security offices crawling along


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.