For Ex-Postal Service Official, Summer Scandal Heats Up
Monday, September 18, 2006
All summer, federal-dom has been abuzz over a steamy U.S. Postal Service Inspector General's report accusing the agency's former public affairs chief of heavy drinking, expense account chicanery and sexual harassment. But who knew that the subject of the report, Azeezaly S. Jaffer, has spent the season on vacation, courtesy of the Postal Service?
Jaffer's taxpayers' holiday bears witness, a Postal Service spokesman said, "to how hardworking he is."
The June IG report accuses Jaffer, who managed a staff of 160 and a $20 million budget, of, among other things: drinking at a work function until he passed out; running up $8,000 in extra hotel room charges so he could qualify for a suite with a bathtub for two; and following a female colleague into her hotel room, propositioning her, then passing out.
The Postmaster General's office requested the report in mid-2005, after employee complaints about Jaffer's behavior, spokesman Gerry McKiernan said. Eleven days after the IG released its report June 19, Jaffer, who denies the allegations, left the agency "to pursue other career opportunities."
His departure was announced by Postmaster General John E. Potter, who wrote in a memo to officers that Jaffer "served us well during some of the most difficult public relations challenges faced by any organization," including the 2001 anthrax attacks. His efforts, Potter wrote, "were critical to maintaining public and employee confidence in the Postal Service and the mail."
And then, despite the allegations, Jaffer went on two months' paid vacation, which ended Sept. 1. Beyond that, Jaffer's attorney, Matthew Hsu, said, his client is in line for another two months' vacation pay; at his annual salary of $160,000, the four months of vacation pay amounts to more than $50,000.
Jaffer has paid the Postal Service $3,600, mostly for bills run up by his family last year.
Late last week, the Postal Service issued new post-Jaffer expense guidelines. Dinners, they say, should not exceed $50 per person, more frugal than, for example, the $1,066.08 that the IG says Jaffer charged the Postal Service for dinner for three, including 16 drinks.
McKiernan wondered last week why anyone remains interested in this summer's scandal. But Congress aims to keep Jaffer's endless summer warm at least through autumn.
On Friday, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) who chairs the House Committee on Government Reform, and the committee's ranking minority member, Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), sent a letter to Potter requesting a pile of records linked to Jaffer's case. "The Inspector General's report of clearly unacceptable conduct by a senior postal official is troubling to all of us," the letter reads. The Postal Service has until Sept. 28 to respond.
Jaffer spent some of his summer vacation telling his side to Sidley Austin, which recently released a 42-page "white paper" denying the charges against him.
A few excerpts follow: