Firing of Prison Manager Upheld

A prison manager who failed to report his arrest was fired for several offenses and the MSPB and a federal court find the removal justified.

A unit manager at the Allenwood, Pennsylvania federal penitentiary was unsuccessful in his bid to persuade the appeals court to overturn his removal by the Department of Justice. (Stevenson v. Department of Justice, C.A.F.C. No. 06-3090 (non precedent), 8/29/06)

As relayed in the court’s decision, Stevenson was fired for off-duty misconduct, failure to report an arrest, failure to satisfy just debts, and “possession of contraband in the workplace (a cellular telephone” in violation of the Standards of Employee Conduct.” (p. 2) He appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board (Stevenson v. Department of Justice, No. PH075205016911 (October 4, 2005)). The Administrative Judge concluded that Stevenson’s off-duty misconduct, failure to report an arrest, and possession of contraband at the workplace were sufficient to justify his removal. (Opinion p. 2)

Stevenson took his appeal to court. He tried unsuccessfully to persuade the court that the Board was wrong on the failure to report charge. He argued that he had in fact reported the arrest despite an affidavit signed by the prison warden to the contrary. Pointing out that witness credibility determinations of the Board’s administrative judges are “virtually unreviewable,” the court concluded there was substantial evidence supporting the Board’s determination that Stevenson had failed to report the arrest. (p. 4)

Next up was Stevenson’s argument that there was no nexus between his misconduct and the “efficiency of the service” as was required to uphold the removal. The Board found there was sufficient nexus. The court agreed with the Board. (p. 4)

As for Stevenson’s final argument that the “Douglas factors” were not properly considered by the agency in deciding to remove him, the court affirmed the Board’s analysis and ruling on this issue as well. (p. 5)

In short, Mr. Stevenson’s removal stands. 

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.