First Offense: Lying, Disgraceful Conduct and Making False Statements

An Army EEO manager was erroneously issued a travel check and told not to cash it. But she cashed it and told the agency she had not received it. The official was fired and argued on appeal that it was her first offense so she should be able to keep her federal job. The court didn’t buy the argument.

An Army Equal Employment Opportunity Manager fired for disgraceful conduct and making false statements, was unsuccessful in her challenge before the appeals court. (King v. Department of the Army, C.A.F.C. No. 2007-3186 (nonprecedential), 10/30/07)

King’s troubles began when she was erroneously issued a travel check in the amount of $4,158. The agency discovered its error immediately, and her bosses explained to King that she was not legally entitled to the funds. She was specifically instructed by her supervisor not to cash the check. You guessed it – she cashed the check anyway, told the agency she had never received it and claimed that her ex-husband had been the one to cash it. King eventually admitted that she was the culprit. (Opinion, p. 2)

The agency took a dim view of King’s actions and fired her. The charges were false statements, lying to a supervisor, and disgraceful conduct. On appeal, the Merit Systems Protection Board held a hearing and found that Army had proved its charges and had properly weighed the "Douglas" factors in deciding upon the removal penalty. (p. 2)

Among other things, King argued to the appeals court that the penalty was extreme and unfair, given that this was her first offense, and the Board should have reduced it. However, the court sided with the Board. The court quotes this portion of the Administrative Judge’s decision: "…[T]he agency has shown that it gave adequate consideration to the Douglas factors and …properly exercised its managerial discretion in selecting the penalty of removal." (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.