Sam Brinton, a non-binary former senior employee at the Department of Energy, went on a taxpayer-funded work trip to the Nevada National Security Site in Las Vegas last year when he was involved in a high-profile luggage theft.
According to reports, Brinton set out from Washington, D.C., on July 6, 2022, and landed at Las Vegas’s Harry Reid International Airport. In December, Brinton was charged with grand theft by prosecutors in Las Vegas for stealing an item worth $1,200 to $5,000. While in Las Vegas on official DOE business on July 6, Brinton was accused of taking luggage worth an estimated $3,670 at Harry Reid International Airport. The stolen purse had expensive jewelry worth $1,700, clothes worth $850, and cosmetics worth $500.
Senior officials committing minor crimes while on the clock strongly indicate that something is malfunctioning in the federal government’s personnel systems; thus, the government needs a more strict vetting process for senior-level posts. Last year, Brinton made news when, as a non-binary gender-fluid person, he was appointed deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposal in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. According to a DOE expenditure report from August 2022, the total cost of the four-day trip was calculated to be $1,951.50.
Brinton avoided jail time in the grand larceny case by entering a no-contest plea and foregoing a trial. He must pay the victim $3,670.74 plus court costs and a criminal fine of $500. Judge Ann Zimmerman of Clark County, Nevada, gave Brinton a 180-day suspended jail term and told him to “stay out of trouble.”
In December, the Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed that Brinton had left the department without explaining his departure. Following Brinton’s departure, Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso demanded an internal probe of the Department of Energy’s security clearance procedure. Barrasso is the head of the Senate Republican Conference and the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.