There remains an intense debate over the legal and ethical implications of former FBI Director James Comey removing FBI memos and leaking the information to the press. Despite serious allegations of unethical conduct, Comey has been chosen to teach a course on “ethical leadership” at William and Mary in the Fall.
I have previously written (here and here and here) wrote a column about the lack of objectivity in the media in the coverage of the Russian investigation, and specifically, the conduct of former FBI director James Comey. The FBI has already confirmed the obvious: this was FBI material and not personal material as claimed by some pro-Comey commentators. Moreover, the material did contain classified information that cannot be removed by an ex-employee under federal law. Four of the memos that Comey removed are now believed to be classified. He reportedly gave four memos to his friend to leak to the media. That would suggest that at least one memo given to Columbia University Professor Daniel Richman was classified.
Thus, there is substantial evidence that Comey not only acted unethically in the removal and leaking of FBI information, but he may have violated federal law in doing so if one of the memos was classified.
Nevertheless, he will teach students on ethical leadership in a three-credit course with Drew Stelljes, executive assistant professor of education and assistant vice president for student leadership in fall 2018 and spring and summer 2019. For those who believe that Comey (who was tasked with finding leakers) became a leaker himself, Comey’s description of the course may be a bit jarring: “Ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth.”
While I have said that Comey was a catch for Howard University to teach (despite his rocky reception with students), this is not the course that would seem ideal at this time for the former FBI Director.
Comey is a graduate of William & Mary and has been a loyal alumnus for the school. However, pending the outcome of the various investigations touching on his conduct, it may be a tad early to start holding forth on the subject of ethical leadership.