Ellen Feingold, director of the Department of Transportation's office of civil rights, was chatting with a secretary yesterday morning when Vincent Oliver, an employe whom she has notified she intends to fire, walked in.
Once before, Oliver had been fired from DOT for incompetence, but after 18 months of civil service appeals, he had won back his $32,000-a-year job. Twice on Wednesday and again yesterday morning, Feingold told Oliver that she intended to fire him again.
When Oliver walked in yesterday, and saw the newest notice of her intention to fire him, he walked over to Feingold, who said, "Good morning."
Oliver, according to witnesses and the police, returned her greeting by punching her in the jaw. As Feingold crumpled to the floor of the 10th-story office, Oliver also kicked her in the pelvis; according to the witnesses and the police.
Feingold was treated at the department's Coast Guard medical facility and sent home, badly bruised, according to the reports. Oliver gave himself up at the nearby 1st District police station and was charged with two counts of simple assault.
Oliver also punched equal employment opportunity officer Henri Baron, who tried to help Feingold, police said.
Neither Feingold nor Oliver could be reached for comment.
DOT Secretary Brock Adams said he was "appalled" at the incident. But, noting the "delicate legal situation." DOT spokeswoman Frances Lewine said she cannot say what impact the assault will have on Oliver's future at DOT. Oliver is Feingold's deputy.
Oliver can continue to receive his pay for "about five days" under civil service rules in cases where there is a "threat of life and safety." The rules permit a supervisor to suspend the employe immediately for 30 days, with 24 hours notice to reply. The rules also provide that the employe can be given 30 days notice of permanent dismissal, with written reasons, and 30 days to reply before gaining full appeal right.
In a bitter dispute over minority hiring policy, Oliver was fired as the office's deputy director in June 1976 by the-Transportation Secretary William T.Coleman Jr. Coleman said at the time that he was firing Oliver because he was incompetent. Oliver, in turn, charged the Coleman lacked "strong moral leadership" and supported "token hiring." Both Oliver and Coleman are black.
The appeals review board, the highest tribunal to which federal employes can take their merit system appeals for judgement, said last February that the firing was an abuse of discretion, arbitrary and unreasonable." The board restored Oliver to his job at full salary and gave him back pay and benefits totaling more than $50,000.