There’s just something about the combination of the federal government and the topic of weather which seems to lead to problems. We recently learned that NOAA was finally going to fix their ability to predict the weather, much to the relief of all, but now they need to get a handle on their personnel at the National Weather Service. Sadly, this probably won’t come as a terrible shock to anyone who follows government business on a regular basis, but one of their top officials reportedly got a bit creative in the Human Resources department. With his retirement coming up fast, he realized that there was a need for some additional help around the office. The solution was obvious… create a new consultant position out of thin air and then just hire himself for it! (Washington Post)
A senior National Weather Service official helped write the job description and set the salary for his own post-retirement consulting post– then came back to the office doing the same job with a $43,200 raise, the agency’s watchdog found.
The deputy chief financial officer also demanded that he be paid a $50,000 housing allowance near Weather Service headquarters in downtown Silver Spring in violation of government rules for contractors, one of numerous improprieties in a revolving-door deal sealed with full knowledge of senior agency leaders, according to an investigation by the Commerce Department inspector general’s office.
The official, P. Donald Jiron, had apparently amassed a track record of questionable behavior at the agency, including attempts to pressure the staff to get his daughter a job in the same office. The rather alarming part of all this is that Jiron may not have technically done anything actionable. If the office knew of and approved his plan, what sort of charges do you file against him? True, the regulations say that the hiring process has to be “open” to all applicants, but he’s the person applying for the job, not actually the one doing the hiring. Of course, it might be nice if we got back the nearly half million in salary paid out to him before the scheme was discovered.
As I said before, this might come as a surprise if such moves didn’t seem to be baked into the federal cake. All of the agencies seem to pull tricks like this in one fashion or another. You’ll recall that the TSA was found to have given a huge swath of its employees a raise worth a total of more than $17.5M per year just by changing all of their titles.
“The office employed personnel classified as ‘criminal investigators,’ even though their primary duties may not have been criminal investigations,” said a report by the Homeland Security inspector general. “These employees received premium pay and other costly benefits, although other employees were able to perform the same work at a lower cost.”
The inspector general said the extra salaries could cost taxpayers $17.5 million over five years in salary alone for all 124 of the TSA’s criminal investigators. The inspector general did not calculate the additional cost of the benefits those employees receive.
As always, good work if you can get it. But that’s just the point. You can’t get it. You have to be inside the system to game the system and some of these folks are simply champions at that particular skill set.