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Secret Service director Sullivan to resign after uneven career

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 8:38 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan announced his retirement on Friday, bringing to a close a turbulent period for the law enforcement agency that included a South American prostitution scandal and a pair of White House gate-crashers.

In nearly seven years as director, Sullivan had to answer serious questions from lawmakers on two occasions about his employees' actions on the job and off.

In May, in testimony before Congress, Sullivan apologized for the conduct of Secret Service employees caught in a prostitution scandal in Colombia. Thirteen agents and officers were implicated after an agent argued with a prostitute over payment in a hotel hallway in Cartagena, Colombia.

The employees were in the Caribbean resort city before President Obama's arrival for a South American summit in April. After a night of heavy partying in some of Cartagena's bars and clubs, the men brought women, including prostitutes, back to their hotel.

Eight of those Secret Service employees were forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct, and at least two were fighting to get their jobs back.

The incident prompted Sullivan to issue a new code of conduct that bars employees from drinking within 10 hours of the start of a shift and from taking foreigners to their hotel rooms.

In 2009, Sullivan had to answer questions about how a pair of aspiring socialites talked their way into a State dinner at the White House. That the pair made it into the highly secured event was not only a violation of protocol but raised questions about how easily an unauthorized person could gain close access to the president and vice president.

“In this case, I fully acknowledge the proper procedures were not followed and human error occurred in the execution of our duties,” Sullivan told lawmakers.

He struck a similar tone in May when he apologized to lawmakers for the behavior of the Secret Service employees in Colombia.

Sullivan's retirement will be effective Feb. 22.

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