Ex-prosecutor accuses UN chief of hiring bias

UNITED NATIONS — An accomplished former U.S. prosecutor has filed a grievance accusing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of blocking his hiring to the U.N.' s top investigative post because of discrimination based on gender and nationality.

The dispute over Robert Appleton's appointment is the latest salvo in a high-stakes fight within the world organization over how to fix the U.N.' s long-troubled internal watchdog agency. U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday that Ban's office could not comment on matters before the tribunal.

Appleton's 76-page application to the U.N. Dispute Tribunal, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, said that Ban's refusal to hire him is a breach of the U.N. Charter and General Assembly resolutions.

Ban appeared to be ignoring U.N. hiring rules that require filling vacancies based on experience and qualifications "because of the applicant's gender and nationality. This is the essence of discrimination endorsed by the very officials whose job it is to enforce the organization's policies prohibiting such conduct," Appleton wrote.

He is seeking $1 million in damages and up to about $500,000 in lost wages and benefits. His grievance was first reported in Foreign Policy magazine's "Turtle Bay" blog.

Appleton headed the U.N.' s special white collar fraud unit, known as the Procurement Task Force, that operated with great success from 2006 to 2008. It found 20 significant corruption schemes, leading to several felony convictions and sanctions against dozens of U.N. vendors.

During two global recruitment rounds in 2008 and 2009, an internal hiring panel selected Appleton from among about 70 applicants as the sole qualified and suitable candidate to serve as permanent head of the investigation division within the U.N.' s Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS.

Ban refused to approve Appleton's hiring as permanent head of the investigation division based on his new policy requiring all senior-level appointments to be chosen from among a field of three qualified candidates that reflect a degree of geographical diversity and include at least one woman.