Government Credit Card Application Leads to Removal

A federal employee can get into hot water with a government credit card. This person got into trouble–and lost his job–as a result of his credit card application.

A recent federal appeals court decision shows how a federal employee can run into trouble over an application for a government credit card. In this case the employee lost his job over documents he submitted as part of the application process. (Ciancanelli v. Department of Homeland Security, U.S.C.A.F.C., No. 05-3154 (non-precedential), 1/17/06)

The Transportation Safety Administration terminated Mr. Ciancanelli’s employment as a Federal Air Marshal in connection with fabricated documents that he submitted to support his application for a government credit card. When his credit card application was turned down because of an unpaid balance of $4,000 on the card that he held while previously employed at the Labor Department, the agency asked him for an explanation.

His reply included copies of two letters from his bank stating that it had erroneously debited his account twice on several transactions due to a computer error. The agency investigated further and determined that these two letters were fabricated. This led the agency to dismiss Mr. Ciancanelli. He appealed to the MSPB.

A Vice President of Mr. Ciancanelli’s bank testified at the hearing that the bank never had that kind of computer problem, that his account was never was double debited, that no bank employee had the name, signature or title as depicted on the letter…and so forth. (Opinion, p. 2) Mr. Ciancanelli refuted this testimony, but, unfortunately for him, the AJ deemed the bank official’s testimony to be credible and found that Mr. Ciancanelli had “submitted the letters in question with the knowledge they contained materially inaccurate information.” His termination was sustained at the Board. (Opinion, p. 3)

The appeals court found that the record had substantial evidence to support this credibility determination by the AJ. As to Mr. Ciancanelli’s argument that the penalty was disproportionately harsh because any falsification or misrepresentation was “not significant or material because he was entitled to the government credit card,” the court did not buy this, stating, “We agree that the act of falsifying documents is adequate grounds for removal from employment.” The court affirmed the MSPB ruling. (Opinion, p. 4)

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.