A federal appeals court has sustained the firing of a
17-year employee of the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Mancini v. Department of Veterans Affairs,
C.A.F.C. No. 2010-3006 (nonprecedential), 7/21/10) As always, the facts are
taken from the court’s opinion.
Mr. Mancini was a vocational rehabilitation specialist when
the agency leveled four charges against him supported by multiple
specifications, and proposed his removal. While the appeals court tossed out a
couple of the specifications, it nevertheless sustained the four charges given
the remaining specifications and concluded that removal was not unreasonable.
Here’s the story (leaving out the facts relating to
specifications that the court did not sustain).
Apparently Mancini was counseling a female veteran who had
diminished mental capacity. When he concluded that she was becoming too
sexually aggressive toward male staff members, Mancini arranged for the veteran
to be transferred to a female VA counselor. Even though he had made the
determination the transfer was necessary, and lined up the new counselor,
Mancini failed to complete the transfer. The agency concluded that this
constituted neglect of duty.
The next problem Mancini encountered involved his male
student intern who had admitted to Mancini that a “friendship” had developed
between the intern and the female veteran. Mancini did not intervene while the
intern ended up visiting the veteran at her home and became involved with her. The
intern confided in Mancini that he and the veteran had become involved. The agency
considered this improper supervision of the intern, another example of neglect
of duty on Mancini’s part.
To compound his problems, when Mancini gave sworn testimony
on two occasions to a board of inquiry on the intern’s relationship with the
veteran, he made inconsistent statements. The agency slapped him with a
“providing inconsistent statements under oath” charge. (Practitioners will tell
you, never stretch the truth or lie under oath.)
A couple of weeks after his second round of testimony before
the board of inquiry, Mancini gave the female veteran a ride from the VA
premises after-hours on his personal motorcycle. He claimed he did it in order
to try to talk her out of buying a motorcycle. The agency used this event to
support a charge of “inappropriate conduct.”
As if he wasn’t in enough hot water already, during the
investigation, the agency found “inappropriate materials” on Mancini’s
computer. Specifically, he had forwarded pornographic images to family members
using his government computer. This formed the basis for a “using government
computer to transmit inappropriate materials” charge.
The agency removed Mancini, he appealed to the Merit Systems
Protection Board, lost, and took his case to the Federal Circuit Court of
Appeals. Yes, the court did throw out a couple of the specifications, but it
sustained the ones discussed above, found the four charges had been sustained,
and concluded that removal “was not an inappropriate sanction.” (p. 10)
Mr. Mancini’s removal stands.