Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to retire

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan

WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan will step down this month, concluding a long career that was clouded last year by a scandal at the agency involving agents and prostitutes ahead of a presidential summit in Colombia.

Spokesman Brian Leary said on Friday that Sullivan would retire on February 22 after leading the agency that protects presidents and fights financial crime since 2006. He’s been an agent for 30 years.

There was no statement on the reason for his decision to leave.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised Sullivan career.

“Mark Sullivan epitomizes the term ‘public service,’ and has devoted his life to the safety of our first families, our nation’s leaders, and the public at large,” she said in a statement.

But last April’s episode in Colombia rocked the vaunted 150-year-old agency, prompting congressional inquiries and raising questions about its culture that currently is under review by a government watchdog.

In that case, some agents working an advance detail for a trip by President Barack Obama brought prostitutes to their Cartagena hotel. The scandal also involved members of the military.

Obama’s security was not compromised and that the agency took subsequent steps intended to prevent similar problems on future trips, according to the Homeland Security Department inspector general.

Nine agents eventually left or lost their jobs.

Sullivan told Congress in May that such behavior was not routine when agents traveled on official business. He called the scandal an aberration.

“This is not a cultural issue, this is not a systemic issue,” Sullivan said. “On this particular trip, we had individuals who made very bad decisions.”

The Homeland Security watchdog credited Sullivan’s handling of the matter, saying the agency “responded expeditiously and thoroughly” to the incident.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also credited Sullivan’s response to the scandal.

“When controversy occurred in his agency, he took swift action and responded to oversight with direct and forthright answers,” the California Republican said in a statement. “This enhanced his credibility, allowing Congress and the American people to remain confident in his agency’s ability to effectively do its job.”

CNN’s Jessica Yellin and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

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