In a flurry of farewell rituals, federal bureaucrats have been giving each other parties, $620 chairs and citations for "outstanding service."
The executive staffs of outgoing Cabinet members traditionally chip in and buy their bosses the $620 chairs they sat in at White House Cabinet meetings.William K. Simon at Treasury, William J. Usery at Labor and David Matthews at Health, Education and Welfare had gotten theirs by midweek. At other offices, mum was the word because the staffs said they "wanted it to be a surprise."
The pace of bureaucratic award-giving, which continues year-round, picked up in recent weeks as departing agency heads showed their gratitude to favored staff members in the form of framed certificates, plaques and letters of commendation.
"These are not done 'through channels,' with the complicated, competitive procedures involved in, say, the annual awards dinners," explained a spokesman at HEW.
"It's not like you charged up a hill and wiped out a machine gun nest, but that you've been of assistance to the Secretary in some way, you've written beautiful regulations, or something like that."
HEW, for instance, gave an award to outgoing Under Secretary Marjorie Lynch "for doing a hell of a job," and she in turn presented special citations to the staff of deputy assistant secretary Julia V. Taft, who headed up the government's Indochina refugee program, the spokesman said.
Secretary Matthews approved an additional 42 special awards to be given out this week.
"We don't like to give awards like they're Coca Cola tops," said Jim Palma, an administrator who handles protocol matters. "These are for the people in the trenches who really make this department go."
Labor Secretary Usery was handling out about 100 letters, special certificates and small medallions with the Labor seal in plastic, a spokesman said.
Charlie Caldwell, 61, a special assistant to Usery, is not only handling the mechanics of distributing those awards. He is also a recipient. 'It's a nice thing to have, something you can put up in your den with your first tickets to a Broadway show,' Caldwell said. A career civil servant with 21 years of "government time" behind him. Caldwell says he will miss his personal relationship with the Secretary.He will go back to his career position as a GS15 in field operations.
Treasury's Simon recently gave out about two dozen awards, including several Alexander Hamilton Awards ("the agency's highest") to bureau chiefs and career people with 30 years' service or more, a spokesman said, plus a "quality increase" (a step up in grade) to his Secret Service chauffeur.
Simon's top aides not only chipped in and gave him his Cabinet chair, the spokesman said, they also paid $15 each to attend the goodbye party at which they presented it earlier this month.
Like other departing top officials, Simons has attended several goodbye parties for departing top officials. Outgoing Secretary of State Henry Kissinger came to Simons party and told some jokes, the spokesman said, and Simons attended at least one of the several parties given for Kissinger. Kissinger, incidentally, reportedly was giving out foreign service wards at the State Department on Tuesday.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was the guest of honor at parties on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and in between those, there were awards. Rumsfeld and his two deputies received the Joint Chiefs of Staff medallion in lucite, a spokesman said, and Rumsfeld presented about two dozen other awards to members of his staff and to the secretaries of the armed services.