Senior Executive Service employes at the Department of Energy said yesterday they were "outraged" by their treatment at the hands of the Reagan administration, which they accused of abusing personnel procedures to force them out of their career civil service jobs for political reasons.
In an all-day joint hearing before House subcommittees that oversee energy conservation and civil service policies, the SES employes and officials at the agency recounted different versions of the circumstances surrounding some controversial reductions-in-force and reassignments at the agency. And Donald J. Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management, acknowledged that the agency's performance appraisal system "left something to be desired."
Devine, whose office has ordered reinstatement of 12 of 19 Energy SES employes RIFfed at the agency because of flaws in their evaluations, said removal of career executives "is clearly a management prerogative." Agency officials said they RIFfed or reassigned the employes because they had a surplus of managers after Reagan personnel and budget cuts.
But the employes said their fate became linked to the administration's efforts to dismantle congressionally mandated energy conversation programs.
"The senior executives knew what the laws were," said Maxine Savitz, who was removed earlier this year as deputy director at the energy-conservation office. She lost her job after refusing a transfer to a lower job in Colorado, a transfer she said the agency knew she wouldn't take because she had a family in Washington.
Savitz's situation has become rather celebrated, particularly since Devine came out against a recommendation by the special counsel of the Merit Systems Protection Board that Energy reinstate her. Yesterday, Democrats on the committees and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) asked the special counsel's office to reopen her case.
Energy's assistant secretary for conservation and renewable energy, Joseph J. Tribble, said he removed Savitz because, "It was difficult for me to make any progress when she disputed every small issue." He said Savitz implemented policy once it had been decided but that he mistrusted her dealings with congressional staffs, although he couldn't cite specific concerns yesterday.
Savitz argued that removing career civil servants for expressing their expert opinions would discourage them from sharing their ideas with policy makers.
Tina Hobson, one of the SES employes RIFfed at Energy but not one of those Devine has recommended reinstating, said yesterday she faces dismissal after 19 years as a hard-working career civil servant. "I've been called a lot of things in my time, but I've never been called incompetent," she said.
Hobson said her job was imperiled on the basis of what she thought was an interim performance appraisal of "fully satisfactory," a lower appraisal than the "exceptional" ratings she received earlier. During the RIF, she was declared a "surplus senior executive" and has since been fighting to keep her job.
Hobson said she believes she was targeted for firing because the administration had decided to cut conservation programs and because she had once refused to go along with what she called an "illegal act" by the agency involving an alleged attempt to send agency officials to a meeting representing themselves as consumer advocates. She said no effort was made to find her another job and that four open positions "were withdrawn the minute I applied."
Hobson also contended that Devine had decided her case without giving her a chance to tell her side. Devine said he didn't need to interview the employes because he had their files.