The Voice of America tells the world what's going on in the United States, but the radio network's management and employes can't agree on what's going on inside VOA.
Faced with this standoff, the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that supervises VOA brought in an umpire: the General Accounting Office. It has been ordered to investigate VOA management practices and employes' grievances.
Our reporter Gary Clouser reviewed the mutual recriminations with VOA Director Richard Carlson and Norman Painter, president of the American Federation of Governmental Employees local at the agency.
As it happens, the GAO investigation comes on the heels of an internal VOA report on alleged irregularities at Radio Marti, the station that is beamed at Cuba. The report was generally laudatory of VOA management, but has been labeled by the union as "a cover-up."
The internal VOA report last May praised the agency's management and staff for getting Radio Marti in operation so quickly after it was authorized by Congress, but said that more attention should be paid to personnel matters. The report described Radio Marti as a "broadcasting miracle" for being on the air with 14 1/2 hours of programming only 18 months after its creation.
The internal report said that "considerable sacrifices had to be made involving personnel in order to get Radio Marti on the air and running." But the report said no evidence was found to support the union's charges of harassment, intimidation and sexual discrimination.
The investigation was authorized after 19 VOA employes complained a year ago about "administrative irregularities." The employes' petition for an investigation did not include specifics; union officials told us that more employes would have signed it if not for management intimidation.
Last August, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that the union's charges of intimidation were unfounded. The union, which had been picketing to protest what it claimed were "widespread abuse and harassment," said it lost before the labor board because employes were too intimidated to testify.
Perhaps the most explosive part of the controversy was the union's charge that some male VOA employes who were receptive to the homosexual overtures of a supervisor were rewarded with favors and promotions, while those who resisted the supervisor's advances got negative job evaluations.
The union also charged that women employes were not promoted because they didn't interest the supervisor in question. The union identified the supervisor and submitted two affidavits supporting its allegations.
Carlson, the VOA director, called the charges false and "the lowest form of character assassination."
Management said that an employe who signed the affidavit alleging sexual discrimination was fired because of inadequate job performance that predated the alleged sexual overture by the supervisor.