House backs unpaid leave for federal executives under investigation

December 20, 2012

The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow federal agencies to place senior government executives on unpaid leave while they are under investigation for crimes or other serious wrongdoing.

The Government Employee Accountability Act, which passed by a vote of 402-2, would also give agencies the option of placing executives on paid leave for up to 90 days for less serious violations involving misconduct, misappropriation of funds, neglect of duty and malfeasance. Notice and appeal rights would apply.

Lawmakers drafted the bill largely in response to the scandal involving a lavish Las Vegas conference for the General Services Administration. 

The legislation would allow agencies to fire employees for misappropriation of funds, and it includes a provision to offer back pay for workers found innocent of misconduct. 

“The Government Employee Accountability Act gives agency heads more choices when handling cases of misconduct among SES employees,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who sponsored the measure. 

Kelly also said the bill “gives the American people the reassurance that when serious and flagrant abuses occur, there will be accountability and more options will be on the table.” 

Only two members of the House, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) voted against the legislation, which heads to the Senate next. 

The Senior Executives Association, which represents senior-level government employees, wrote to members of Congress on Monday urging them to oppose the measure.

The group said current law “has worked well and has allowed agencies to take action and hold employees accountable.” It described the pending bill as “extremely impractical from the perspective of agency administration of ongoing and pending matters.” 

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · December 19, 2012