U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL SEEKS REMOVAL OF FEDERAL MANAGER, CHARGING HER WITH NEPOTISM AND RETALIATION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 8/27/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it has filed a petition for disciplinary action against Ms. Jill Stringer, the Regional Personnel Director of the Defense Commissary Agency’s (DECA) Midwest Region. The petition charges Ms. Stringer with five prohibited personnel practices including: (1) retaliating against an employee for filing a union grievance against her; (2) retaliating against an employee for assisting others in filing a grievance; (3) retaliating against an employee for labor union membership; (4) obstructing an employee’s right to compete for federal employment; and (5) advocating for and advancing the promotion of her husband. The petition was filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) on
August 22, 2002, and requests Ms. Stringer’s removal from federal employment.
According to OSC’s petition, in 1999, Mr. Ray Cantu, a union steward and meatcutter at DECA’s Fort Sam Houston Commissary, led other union stewards in filing grievances challenging the hiring of Ms. Stringer’s husband at the commissary. Mr. Stringer had been hired non-competitively, under a Veterans Readjustment Act appointment. As Regional Personnel Director, Ms. Stringer had authority over hiring decisions made at the commissary. The grievance alleged that Mr. Stringer’s hiring, and his wife’s alleged involvement in the hiring process, violated rules against nepotism as well as the agency’s merit promotion plan.
The petition alleges that after the grievances were filed, that Ms. Stringer twice took steps to prevent Mr. Cantu’s promotion to a higher graded meatcutter position, notwithstanding that he had been legitimately chosen for the position by two different selecting officials. OSC’s petition asserts that the reasons given by Ms. Stringer for her actions to block the promotion were false and pretextual. The petition further alleges that the real reason Ms. Stringer had blocked Mr. Cantu’s promotions was to retaliate against him for his union membership, and for filing grievances or assisting others in doing so.
OSC’s petition charges that Ms. Stringer’s actions to block the promotions constituted prohibited personnel practices under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4), (b)(9) and (b)(12). Under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(9) it is a prohibited personnel practice for an agency official to take or fail to take a personnel action because: (1) an employee or applicant has exercised any grievance right granted by any law, rule, or regulation; or (2) an employee or applicant has lawfully assisted any individual in the exercise of any such right. Under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(12) it is a prohibited personnel practice for an agency official to take or fail to take any personnel action in violation of a law, rule, or regulation that implements a merit system principle. In this case, OSC cited the civil service regulation at 5 C.F.R. § 335.103 which requires that job selections be made without regard to labor union affiliation. Finally, 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4) states that it is a prohibited personnel practice for an agency official to willfully obstruct an employee’s right to compete for employment.
In addition to these charges, the petition alleges that Ms. Stringer advocated for and advanced the promotion of her husband in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(7). Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(7) it is a prohibited personnel practice for an agency official to use their authority to advance or advocate on behalf of a relative for promotion or advancement to a civilian position in the agency in which such employee is serving as a public official or over which such employee exercises jurisdiction or control. According to the petition, Ms. Stringer violated this provision when she took certain steps that resulted in an upgrade of her husband’s position. OSC alleges that Ms. Stringer ordered an audit of the positions subordinate to her husband with the expectation that it would lead to an upgrade of those positions, recommended to agency officials that her husband’s position be upgraded because his subordinates’ positions were upgraded, and then she completed the paperwork resulting in the upgrading of her husband’s position.
By law, when OSC files a disciplinary action petition, the subject official is entitled to a hearing before an MSPB administrative law judge, in which OSC must present its case. The administrative law judge’s decision on the charges is subject to review by the full Board. A subject official is entitled to file a petition for review with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, if the Board sustains the Special Counsel’s charges.