The news these past few weeks on the multiple scandals from Benghazi to the IRS and the AP/Fox phone records are all sending a message of how one gets promoted or retains their job after screwing up the one they had. If any kind of performance management is being delivered we in the public are not privy to it, and no one other than the guy who resigned 2 weeks earlier than his planned exit are even losing their jobs.
In the private sector when things go this wrong people usually get fired. The CEO never gets away with playing the absentee card as an excuse to avoid scrutiny, and lesser events have caused a complete turnover of staff and leadership. But in government, we the people look the other way.
I was once described by a direct report who was a manager that I had a very forgiving nature. This comment resulted because I would not endorse firing someone over the infraction committed. I do realize that we are all human, and I give as some would say, plenty of rope before I hang someone. For the most part, I believe in a warning system that alerts an individual to performance issues, and I give them time to correct the behaviors.
Now while most of the time I am slow to fire and quicker to coach, I do have a few areas that simply allow the individual to go straight to unemployment. They usually involve ethical issues like stealing, fraud, and lying to me. None of these behaviors in my mind allow for a second chance with me and the company paying us.
Never have I moved an employee into a plum role to pull them out of the spotlight. Never, ever have I promoted someone for bad behavior. And one time I fell on my own sword when I caught a vendor committing fraud and was overridden by my manager to fire them. I resigned and my boss was flabbergasted.
Never forget that those not directly involved in the performance issue you are dealing with are not watching. When someone gets fired for unethical behavior it sends a clear message that the same punishment could await a similar action. Likewise, promoting someone for bad behavior sends the message of how we get promoted; Just Screw Up!