The Merit Systems Protection Board has upheld the dismissal of former Interstate Commerce Commission secretary Robert Oswald despite his exoneration by a federal court on most of the same charges.
The central figure in a year-long Justice Department investigation of influence peddling and bribery at the ICC, Oswald was fired by the ICC a year ago for allegedly violating the commission's Code of Conduct in his relations with regulated truck companies. Oswald also served as the ICC's congressional liaison officer.
Oswald was acquitted late last year after a federal grand jury had indicted him on charges of taking $4,000 in bribes and free vacations from a New York trucking firm. After his acquittal, Oswald turned his attention to his dismissal in an attempt to get his job back.
But in a ruling yesterday, the civil service appeals board found that while Oswald may have been cleared of charges that he violated any federal laws, he stull acted in violation of commission rules by committing such acts as releasing information in advance of set release dates, participating in campaign fund-raisers in violation of Hatch Act guidelines, and recommending to trucking concerns the names of lawyers to represent them before the ICC.
"It should be noted," Chief Appeals Officer Thomas Lanphear said in his opinion, "that we are not bound by the standard of proof required in the criminal law... that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt... instead... we require that an agency prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence."
Lanphear accused Oswald of giving an attorney for Consolidated Carriers Corp., a New York trucking frim, "full freedom of your offices and access to your subordinate employes in seeking advice and information which was far beyond the advice and information extended to other representatives of carriers."
The ominous implications of mob connections had been raised by ICC and Justice Department investigators early on in the Oswald case when they accused Oswald of meeting with Consolidated official Thomas Gambino, son ofthe late New York mafia figure Carlo Gambion, in an effort ot hlep the younger Gambino get an ICC license for Consolidated
Oswald had claimed that Rep. John Murphy (D.-N.Y.) had asked him to meet with Gambino, a charge Murphy denied.
Oswald has indicated that he will appeal the case "all the way," which would now require that he take his case to federal court.
In a related matter, the Merit Systems Protection Board also denied an appeal from Oswald's deputy congressional relations officer, Richard Kyle, of his dismissal -- which came shortly after Oswald's. Kyle, too, was a suspect in the Justice Department case against Oswald, but never had federal charges filed against him.
Kyle was accused by the ICC, however, of accepting travel, lodging, food, drinks and a gift from a regulated trucker.
In Kyle's case, Lanphear found that while some of the charges against him were not well substantiated, others were, and "substantiated a violation" of ICC ethical rules.
Further, Lanphear found, Kyle's defense that other ICC officials were guilty of the same allegations made against him, was irrelevant.
"We do not believe the agency should be precluded from taking the action simply because removal of other employes was also warranted," Lanphear found.