Every time we hear anything from the government workers’ Merit System Protections Board it seems to be bad news. Government employees who get into trouble and somehow manage to be either fired, suspended or have some privilege revoked wind up appealing to the board and are let off the hook, usually with a generous slug of back pay coming their way. That’s why I was rather shocked to see that the board had sent out a notice to the feds telling them that they actually can bench people who are convicted or credibly suspected of committing crimes. (Government Executive)
The Merit Systems Protection Board is reminding federal agencies that they can indefinitely suspend without pay employees suspected of crimes.
Agencies do not by law have to wait for a criminal indictment, or actual conviction, to temporarily take workers off the payroll if they have “reasonable cause” to believe the employees committed a crime that could carry jail time.
“The agency may opt [emphasis in original] to wait for an investigation to be completed by an inspector general or other investigator in order to provide the deciding official with more information or evidence,” said a three-page MSPB “studies flash” released Tuesday. “While officials can choose to wait for an investigation to be completed before proceeding with the indefinite suspension, that is a choice, not a requirement.”
Oh really? Pardon us if that comes as something of a surprise. Let’s remember that this is the same board who determined that a convicted sex offender should be awarded a big payday for being “improperly terminated.” They were also the folks who ensured that a VA worker in Puerto Rico who literally went to prison for fraud was forced back into the system only to become a purchasing officer. And don’t forget the two Phoenix VA executives who made off with all that relocation money and cushy jobs. They couldn’t even have the bogus reimbursements taken back. But now you’re telling their bosses that workers can be taken to task before they’re even convicted?
There may be an explanation for this mystery in the wording of that “studies flash” however. You’ll note that the board isn’t saying that anyone can be fired. (Perish the thought.) Simply that they can be suspended without pay. That makes for some positive headlines on the government worker news front and gives everyone the impression that there’s some level of accountability for those collecting a paycheck off the taxpayer dime. But it says nothing about what happens when the worker’s union representatives appeal the suspension to the board. Once that happens they can be reinstated and have all their back pay delivered to them. For all we know, they might wind up getting a bonus.
And then we’re back to business as usual in the public sector. It’s great work if you can get it, eh?