Investigating conduct problems is also known as an “Administrative
Investigation”. The purpose of an administrative investigation is to support
a decision to take or not to take disciplinary action. The goal is to
impartially gather and compile all relevant evidence.
- The supervisor may conduct the investigation or appoint a neutral
third party to conduct the investigation and prepare the investigative
- Tips for starting an investigation:
- Know your Task and Authority
- Research any preliminary questions you may have regarding the
- Enlist the help of subject matter experts
- Identify a list of possible witnesses
- Prepare a list of questions for witnesses (to be used as a
- Obtain reference material (if necessary)
- The investigator has a right to full cooperation from federal
employees. Refusal to cooperate may be grounds for disciplinary action.
The investigator also has a right to expect truthful answers during the
investigation. False answers may be grounds for disciplinary action.
- Unless the information is going to be used for criminal prosecution,
there is no right to remain silent. Criminal investigations are beyond
the scope of this guidance and should be referred to the proper
- Tips for Interviewing witnesses:
- Conduct Private Interviews:
- face-to-face (preferred)
- telephone interviews (follow up with written statements)
- written statements
- Interview complaining party and/or suspected party first
- Interview all other witnesses (if necessary)
- Secure signed written statements from witnesses
- Keep good notes
- Respect their rights
- Witness rights during an investigation:
- Introduction – The investigator should always introduce
himself/herself and explain that they are conducting an official
- Right to Union Representation – If the witness is within a
bargaining unit, has reason to believe the investigation could lead
to disciplinary action against him/her, and request union
representation, they have a right to have a union representative at
the investigation (Weingarten Rights).
- Statement – A witness is entitled to a copy of his/her own
- Confidentiality – Witness cannot be guaranteed absolute
confidentiality. The investigator should minimize the spread of
information and limit it to those who have an official need to know.
- Sources of Evidence include:
- Material Evidence – evidence is material if it relates to one or
more of the issues raised in the inquiry.
- Relevant Evidence – evidence is relevant if it tends to prove or
disprove a material issue raised in the inquiry.
- Reliable Evidence – Whether material or relevant, not all
evidence is worthy of belief. Factors to consider:
- Is the testimony based on personal knowledge or experience?
- Is the testimony a direct observation or merely a
- Does the witness have an interest in the outcome of inquiry?
- Is the witness biased for other reasons?
- Preparing Investigative Report:
- Review all the evidence collected
- Re-interview witnesses (if necessary)
- Organize your evidence
- Prepare a narrative report – suggested format:
- Reference Material and Interviewees