Too Sick to Work But Well Enough to Go to a Casino

By on January 14, 2015 in Court Cases, Current Events with 96 Comments

This recent case shows that an employer can reach the last straw in dealing with employees who misuse the official government credit card. (Evans v. United States Postal Service, CAFC No. 2012-3190 (nonprecedential 1/8/15) The agency leveled several charges against Evans and fired him.

Mr. Evans went to work for the Postal Service in 1994, working his way up to a Safety Specialist position. He jettisoned his career when he used his government-issued credit card to run up charges that included over $1000 at a casino, as well as two cash advances used for personal expenses amounting to $1200. (Opinion p. 3) Most readers who hold or have held these government-issued travel cards are well aware that these kinds of charges violate the cardholder agreement that requires the card be used only for official government travel expenses.

Adding insult to injury, Evans also failed to timely pay off his credit card balance (something he admitted during the proceedings), another violation of the agreement and another charge brought against him by the agency when it fired him.

During the course of the administrative investigation and proceedings resulting in his removal, Evans admitted he had withdrawn advance funds but he said he did so to pay for a nephew’s medical emergency. There was also the addition problem of lying to the investigators, evidence showed that Evans first claimed he had cut up the card, but in a later interview, he admitted he still had it. (p. 3)

The final charged was misuse of sick leave. It turns out when Evans visited the casino and made the improper charge in question, he was on sick leave. (p. 3)

Represented by counsel, Evans gamely challenged the charges against him, first before the Merit Systems Protection Board, and when that did not go well, before the appeals court. Basically he attacked the sufficiency of the evidence against him.

The appeals court has now ruled and Evans is out of luck. As the court succinctly states, “We conclude that there was substantial evidence to support the charges.” (p. 3) The court notes that Evans himself admits to key facts, such as he failed to timely pay his credit card and he did make the personal charges on it. The court was unpersuaded that the MSPB should have given more weight to Evans’ testimony that he “never visited a casino while his status was On-Duty” as opposed to the casino’s records and the agency leave records. (p. 3)

Finally as to Evans’ mitigation arguments to reduce the penalty (I got the cash for my nephew and not my personal use; I did not know I was required to pay the card off each month; my false statements to the investigators did not involve material facts; the fact that I was too sick to work did not mean I was not well enough to visit a casino), the court refuses to revisit the removal. (p. 4)

Over the years we have frequently seen and reported on IG reports detailing misuse of government travel cards by federal employees. These reports point to widespread abuse. Here is one case where an agency drew the line and removed an employee.

Evans v. Postal Service 2012-3190

© 2016 Susan McGuire Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Susan McGuire Smith.

About the Author

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.

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