Departing Carter administration officials at the Justice Department appear to have revived the controversy over the bonus system for senior federal executives by handing out $265,000 to 47 of their top people.
The awards went to 23 percent of the eligible Justice executives, so many that the department needed a waiver from the Office of Personnel Management. The legal limit is 25 percent of those eligible, but OPM, in response to growing criticism, had suggested agencies hold their awards to 20 percent.
"They asked us for an exemption and we gave them permission to go up to 23 percent," said a spokesman at OPM. "We didn't think there was anything unusual about it."
Included in the awards was one of $5,011.25 to Warren Oser, director of personnel at Justice who directed the review of personnel records to determine who should get a bonus. Of the 47 officials awarded bonuses, 15 served as members of the performance review boards that decided who should be considered.
"That means that 32 percent of the members of the review boards gave themselves bonuses," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), chairman of the House Civil Service Committee. "That certainly suggests that being on a review board is a good way to go about getting a bonus."
Schroeder suggested that the bonuses handed out by Justice and some of the largest departments and agencies have raised enough questions that congressional hearings are in order. She said hearings will be held when her committee finishes its inquiries, a process that might take another month or two.
Schroeder said the committee would look into the size of some of the bonuses. At Justice, three executives were given $10,022.50 apiece, the limit that senior federal executives can get under the law. The bonuses were approved by Charles B. Renfrew and John H. Shenefield deputy and associate attorneys general in the Carter administration.
"We've been a little distressed at the way the bonuses are handed out," Schroeder said. "We feel it might be a way out of the pay cap."
The people at Justice are more than a little stung by such criticism. Said Oser: "I feel a little upset by some of this congressional criticism. After all, it was their plan; they approved it. There's a feeling around here that all of a sudden the ground rules have changed."
Justice Department winners and the amounts of their awards:
David J. Anderson, $7,516.87; Jeffrey Axelrad, $10,022.50; Ernest J. Brown, $4,009; William Bryson, $5,011.25; Norman A. Carlson, $10,550; Richard E. Carter, $4,949.90; Clair A. Cripe, $5,011.25; David W. Crosland, $5,011.25; Harry H. Flickinger, $5,011.25; Myles E. Flint, $7,516.87; Robert N. Ford, $4,009; Ronald L. Gainer, $7,516.87; Stanley M. Gorinson, $4,510.12; Barry B. Grossman, $4,510.12.
Jo Ann M. Harris, $4,949.90; James D. Henderson, $5,011.25; John Vance Hughes, $4,949.90; Thomas M. Keeling, $3,507.87; John C. Keeney, $7,516.87; Donald A. Kinkaid, $4,510.12; Stanley Francis Krysa, $5,011.25; Michael H. Landon, $4,488.90; Brian Landsberg, $5,011.25; Cornelius J. Leary, $7,516.87; Mark P. Leddy, $4,510.12; Dennis G. Linder, $5,011.25; Anthony C. Liotta, $10,022.50; William S. Lynch, $5,011.25; David Margolis, $5,011.25.
Gerlad McDowell, $5,011.25; David L. Milhollan, $4,009; Raymond Morris, $4,949.90; Gary R. Mote, $5,011.25; John F. Murray, $7,516.87; Charles R. Neill, $7,516.87; Warren Oser, $5,011.25; Theodore D. Peyser Jr., $5,011.25; Neil E. Roberts, 7,516.87; Kevin D. Rooney, $5,011.25; David L. Rose $5,011.25; Richard A. Salem, $5,011.25; Charles Sava, $4,510.12; Stuart E. Schiffer, $4,510.12; Michael E. Shaheen Jr., $5,011.25; James P. Turner, $7,516.87; Lawrence G. Wallace, $5,011.25, and Joseph H. Widmar, $5,011.25.