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Sources: Social Security judge accused of sexual harassment removed from Madison office

By   /   November 21, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 47 of 61 in the series Deadly Delays

MADISON, Wis. — The Social Security Administration  judge accused of sexual harassment and awarding disability claims based on his physical attraction to claimants was removed from his office Monday morning, according to multiple sources.

Administrative Law Judge John Pleuss was escorted out of the Madison Office of Disability Adjudication and Review by armed guards, sources told Wisconsin Watchdog. Sherry Thompson, outgoing chief administrative law judge for SSA’s Region 5, arrived in Madison from Chicago headquarters shortly before Pleuss’ removal, ODAR insiders said.

“This is the beginning of justice being served,” one ODAR source told Wisconsin Watchdog.

Pleuss, according to multiple sources, has been under investigation on allegations of sexual harassment of Madison ODAR employees and making inappropriate comments about the people who have appealed to him for Social Security benefits.

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

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

Watchdog.org file photo

ESCORTED OUT: Multiple sources tell Wisconsin Watchdog that the Social Security judge accused of describing claimants as ‘buxom’ and ‘cute’ was escorted out of the Madison office Monday by two armed guards.

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

In one document, Pleuss wrote, “I’ll pay this lady when hell freezes over!”

In another of Pleuss’ “writing instructions” to his legal assistants, the judge approved a female claimant’s appeal for disability payments, calling her “credible.” He also noted “she looks like she was ‘rode hard and put away wet.’”

A Social Security Administration Region 5 spokesman did not return a request for comment. The agency has repeatedly said it cannot comment on personnel matters or on ongoing SSA Office of the Inspector General investigations.

RELATED: Top judges resign at troubled Social Security Chicago headquarters

Federal agents have investigated allegations of misconduct and whistleblower retaliation at the Madison and Milwaukee ODAR offices for months. The Social Security offices have been described as promoting a “culture of corruption and cover-up.”

In Milwaukee, federal whistleblower Ron Klym first brought to light in May allegations of long delays and administrative games that denied claimants their due process rights. He also claims the office is steeped in nepotism and led by managers bent on rewarding waste, fraud and abuse, and punishing those who report it.

Klym was fired in August, three and a half months after Wisconsin Watchdog published the first story in its investigative series, “Deadly Delays.”

Whistleblowers report many of the same claims of misconduct and retaliation at the Madison office, with allegations about Pleuss’ conduct merely the tip of the iceberg. The whistleblowers accuse Madison’s former hearing office director, who also has been removed from her supervisory position, of operating a system of rewards and punishments in support of inner-office corruption.

One of the whistleblowers was also escorted out of the office and stripped of her management duties. She is working on special projects for the Chicago office.

Pleuss had been removed from the hearing schedule but remained on the agency roster, continuing to make his government salary of at least $167,000 per year, according to federal wage records.

“The Madison staff was previously informed their office could not afford essential office supplies to serve the public. Yet Pleuss was wandering around the office doing nothing, while still collecting his full salary,” a source with knowledge of the situation said. “People are quite happy to see him go.”

Thompson also is on her way out.

As Wisconsin Watchdog reported last month, the embattled chief administrative law judge and Assistant Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge John J. Rabaut have announced they will resign from their leadership positions at the end of the year.

Other Region 5 managers have either voluntarily transferred into other positions or have been forced to do so, according to SSA sources.

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

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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.