Not a Stickler for Detail

A mother and son worked at the same agency. The mother was a human resources specialist. Both of them were fired. The son was fired for falsification of job applications in the agency’s automated program. The son’s appeal went to federal court but the court upheld the credibility determination made by the administrative judge and he stays fired.

The appeals court has sustained the removal of a supply technician who included false information on his prior experience and training in applications for other jobs within the agency. (Stickler v. Department of Defense, C.A.F.C. No. 2007-3126 (nonprecedential), 12/6/07) These are the pertinent facts as spelled out in the court’s decision.

Stickler was employed at the Defense Distribution Depot in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. An agency investigation concluded that Mr. Stickler—aided by his mother who worked at the agency as a classification and staffing specialist–submitted false information in two job applications. Stickler told investigators that he had asked his mother to enter his information into job applications into the agency’s Automated Staffing Program because he did not know how to use the computer system. Once Stickler admitted to the investigators that he had provided the information that his mother then entered, they gave him a Miranda warning. Stickler then decided not to answer any more questions. Stickler’s mother basically supported her son’s version of events when the investigators interviewed her. (Opinion p. 2)

The agency terminated both Stickler and his mother. (The current court case involves only his appeal.)

At a hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board, both Sticklers testified that it was mom who was responsible for the contents of the automated applications. However the administrative judge found this testimony not credible and instead relied on the statements both had given to the agency investigators as well as other agency witnesses. The AJ found that Stickler had knowingly given false information with intent to defraud on the two job applications and sustained the removal. (p. 2)

The appeals court now sustains the removal action. The court points out that Stickler does not dispute that his applications had inaccurate details. Further, the court is not persuaded by Stickler’s argument that the agency failed to prove that he is the one who furnished the information or that he intended to defraud the agency. Calling the AJ’s witness credibility determinations "virtually unreviewable" by the court, it found that there was substantial evidence to support the AJ’s ruling. (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.