Listenbee, Office of Juvenile Justice, Grounded by Sequestration

The leader of the federal juvenile justice agency has curbed plans to attend and speak at events outside the nation’s capital, The Chronicle of Social Change has learned.

Robert Listenbee, the administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator, was scheduled to deliver a keynote address to attendees of a major conference sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Listenbee pulled out just days before the event, instead sending a recorded address that was played during lunch.

““If not for sequestration, he’d be with us here today,” Bart Lubow, director of Casey’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, told the crowd of 800, which included state and county judges as well as juvenile justice practitioners from around the country.

Sequestration refers to a set of automatic cuts to federal spending that took effect this year. A spending deal struck for fiscal 2011 mandated sequestration if certain commitments to cut long-term spending had not been reached by 2013.

The Department of Justice, like most other agencies, is forced to make cuts to handle the reduction in appropriations. The decision on how to absorb Sequestration cuts was put in the hands of division leaders, according to Adora Andy, press secretary for Attorney General Eric Holder.

Andy said in a statement to The Chronicle of Social Change: “Department of Justice components are expected to carefully consider how to prioritize available resources to minimize the impact of sequestration on the Department’s ability to carry out essential functions and to minimize the possibility of furloughs.

Justice Department components can use hiring freezes to address sequestration, Andy said in the statement, as well as “travel, transportation, conferences, training, awards, other administrative expenses and contracts.”

It is unclear whether that means OJJDP has discretion on how to minimize the impact, or whether changes are dictated to them by the Office of Justice Programs, a larger division of the Justice Department that includes OJJDP.

OJJDP had no comment on Listenbee’s decision not to attend the Casey conference, or whether he intends to cease all travel to events he is invited to this fiscal year.

Casey offered to pay for the cost of travel and accommodations for Listenbee. Andy refused to answer whether or not it would have been allowable for Listenbee to accept such an offer.

Ethics rules under 31 U.S.C. 1353 appear to permit non-federal payments to cover travel expenses for a conference or meeting, though some of the criteria require the judgment of an authorized approving official.

Listenbee, who was named for the position by President Barack Obama in February, is the first appointed administrator of OJJDP since J. Robert Flores, who was nominated by President George W. Bush and stepped down months before Obama was inaugurated.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.