A Postal Service supervisor found his 15-year career abruptly ended when the agency caught him "padding" his time and attendance records. His appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board and then to the federal appeals court were fruitless, so he remains fired. (White v. United States Postal Service, C.A.F.C. No. 2010-3057 (nonprecedential 6/14/10).
When he got into trouble, White was serving as Manager of the Computer Forwarding Processing and Distribution Center in Bedford Park, Illinois. The Postal Service Inspector General, acting on a tip that people at that office were padding their time, put White and others under surveillance. According to the federal court’s decision, the IG catalogued eight occasions where White claimed overtime that he did not actually work, concluding that White received $7,557.64 for 251.51 extra hours that he did not actually work. (Opinion p. 3)
By the time the dust settled, White found himself fired based on a charge of accepting pay for time not worked, supported by eight specifications. The deciding official, in concluding that removal was appropriate, cited White’s disregard for agency rules, "misguided" attempts to rationalize his actions, and his refusal to admit that he had done anything wrong. She also relied on the seriousness of the offense, the fact that he was a manager responsible for enforcing time and attendance rules, and his lack of remorse. (p. 4)
On appeal, the administrative judge found the IG investigator’s testimony more credible than White’s. The AJ called White’s claim that he had been absent from the office for the periods of time at issue so he could interview candidates for temporary positions "not credible," since White’s supervisor testified that he had no responsibility whatsoever for these types of hires. Further, White could not name one applicant he interviewed nor could he produce any application forms. (p. 5)
The MSPB upheld the agency’s case against White and found that removal was appropriate.
The federal appeals court has now affirmed the decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board.
The decision does not indicate White’s grade level at the time of his removal, nevertheless one has to wonder if $7,557.64 was worth jeopardizing a seemingly good career.
Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.