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Hylton came under fire after her nomination was announced last September because of her recent work as a consultant for GEO Group, the nation's second largest for-profit prison company. A number of human rights and criminal justice groups wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week criticizing her ties to the company.
Asked about the possible conflict of interest by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) during the hearing on her nomination Wednesday, Hylton said she followed proper procedures.
"I'd like to assure the entire members of the committee that I did follow all ethics requirements and regulations and worked closely with the ethics office before retirement and subsequently after," Hylton said.
"I incorporated the consulting business about a month before I retired just simply so I could begin the paperwork and begin to set up the office so that when I did retire... the company would no longer be dormant," Hylton said. Hylton reportedly recused herself from conversations about the private prison industry in the months leading up to her retirement and the founding of her consulting company, Hylton Kirk & Associates.
She also said that she had no direct involvement with contract awards in her position as a Federal Detention Trustee, the position she left early this year.
The GEO Group's contract with the U.S. Marshals Service is an important source of revenue for the company, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the Washington Times reported.
While acknowledging Hylton's "lengthy record of federal service in the law enforcement field," the coalition opposed to her nomination said it was concerned with her actions before and after her retirement, which the advocates "believe constitutes a conflict of interest that should preclude her appointment."
But Hylton has the backing of both the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the National Sheriffs' Association, as well as a number of judges and current and former U.S. Attorneys.
A representative of the U.S. Marshals Service said last week it would be inappropriate for her to comment on the issue during the course of the nomination process and referred questions to the White House. A White House spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.