House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) recently sent a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke requesting information on the reassignments of as many as 50 agency employees.
Cummings said in his letter that he is concerned the reassignments may have been retaliatory and therefore could be a violation of federal law.
“You have reportedly threatened to use personnel reassignments to move individuals who are disloyal to the Trump Administration and to shrink the Department’s workforce,” wrote Cummings. “The use of personnel reassignments to punish employees that you believe are not ‘loyal’ or to try to drive employees to leave the Department could constitute prohibited personnel practices…”
Cummings cited several examples in his letter that he felt were examples of retaliatory reassignments and went on to request various documents and communication relating to employee reassignments since January 20, 2017 along with costs associated with reassignments. One example Cummings provided was the reassignment of Joel Clement, Director of the Office of Policy Analysis, into a new position for which he had no training and was a move Cummings said was in apparent retaliation for disclosures Clement made on the risks of climate change.
Cummings added as additional justification for the requested documents that “it is a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act to reassign employees in retaliation for protected disclosures that they reasonably believe are evidence of substantial and specific dangers to public health or safety.”
A copy of Cummings’ letter is included below.
Request for Hearings
Cummings was also among several Democrats who sent a letter last week to House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) requesting that the Committee hold hearings to look into actions taken by the Trump Administration to restrict hiring of federal employees across multiple agencies.
“The Trump Administration is now in the midst of one of the largest reorganizations in decades with virtually no oversight by Congress,” wrote the Committee Members. “As Members of this Committee, we believe it is our job to analyze the Trump Administration’s plans to determine if, and to what extent, these massive reductions in staffing will impact the services the American people rely on every single day.”
The letter goes on to cite several examples of actions taken by the Administration that the Committee Members call into question, not the least of which was the hiring freeze which was instituted earlier this year and then later lifted. The letter also cited concerns about how staff level reductions could impact the missions of agencies such as the EPA and HHS.