Indicted, Convicted, Fired and, Years Later, Still Appealing

A federal employee fired for making false travel voucher claims was convicted in court and fired by HUD back in 2001. He filed various appeals and had some success but he has not gotten his job back. Six years after his removal, the appeals may be approaching the end of the line.

A former employee of HUD in Beaumont, Texas convicted a little over 7 years ago on 14 counts of making false travel voucher claims is still hanging in there in trying to overturn his firing as the result of his criminal conviction. He has just lost another round in Williams v. Department of Housing and Urban Development, C.A.F.C. No. 2007-3270 (nonprecedential), 2/13/08. The following facts are taken from the Federal Circuit’s most recent decision on the case.

Williams’ 14-count indictment by a federal grand jury happened in April 2000. HUD immediately suspended him indefinitely without pay pending the disposition of the criminal case. A jury convicted him on all counts in January 2001. The agency removed him in October 2001.

Williams filed a series of administrative appeals “with varying success.” (Opinion p. 2)

He challenged the indefinite suspension. While he did not get it overturned, eventually the Merit Systems Protection Board concluded that the agency should have ended it sooner than it did following his conviction. The Board issued an order on June 26, 2002 requiring HUD to retroactively end the suspension three weeks following his conviction and to pay him back pay and benefits between that date and the date of his removal. (p. 3)

As for his removal, Williams filed an appeal with the MSPB in January 2004—about 26 months after the effective date. The Board dismissed it as untimely. Williams took the MSPB to the Federal Circuit and the court reversed and remanded to the Board due to the HUD notice of his appeal rights being “materially flawed.” (Williams v. Merit Systems Protection Bd., 176 Fed. Appx. 136 (Fed. Cir. 2006)) On remand, the Board affirmed the agency’s removal of Williams. Williams then filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas challenging the Board’s decision to uphold his removal. That court case apparently is still pending. (Opinion p. 3)

Meanwhile, Williams filed a second petition to the Board seeking enforcement of the Board’s June 2002 order. (Recall that this Board order had to do with requiring the agency to retroactively shorten his indefinite suspension.) Williams in effect argued that by removing him following his conviction, the agency had violated the Board’s order to shorten his indefinite suspension and thus was in “continuing non-compliance.” (p. 4) He further argued that he should have been reinstated at the end of the indefinite suspension and left in his job until the Texas court makes a final decision on his case challenging his removal.

If this makes no sense to you, join the club. It made no sense to the Board, which dismissed his latest petition. And apparently it also made no sense to the appeals court, which has now affirmed the Board’s dismissal. The opinion indicates that Williams is “pro se” on the case—legalspeak for representing himself and not having to pay an attorney to keep his appeals alive.

However, in this particular case Williams has nearly reached the end of the line. The appeals court finds there was no reversible error and the Board’s dismissal of Williams latest petition is affirmed. Next stop, the Supreme Court, but good luck with that.

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.