A federal employes union has charged the General Services Administration with violating an employe's constitutional right of due process by announcing a proposed 90-day suspension before an investigation into the alleged infraction had been completed.
"We feel it was inappropriate to release information pertaining to a proposed suspension before the employe was informed and before the investigation was complete," said Bruce G. Williams, national council president for the consortium of American Federation of Government Employe locals that represents 14,000 GSA employes. "You don't crucify a person before the press before you know all the facts."
James R. Clay, a realty specialist at the GSA's Auburn, Wash., office, allegedly allowed five checks totaling more than $1.5 million to sit in an office safe for up to six months, costing the government an estimated $75,000 in interest.
Clay said he gave the largest check, for $1.3 million, to a supervisor before leaving on a two-week business trip. The four smaller checks apparently were bid deposits on government property. Clay said it was "standard practice" to hold those checks until the full amount was paid.
Clay, who was transferred to a job that does not involve handling money, learned about the proposed suspension from a reporter. "They haven't told me that," was his reaction.
GSA regional administrator Vito Chiechi, who had announced the proposed suspension, acknowledged later that the "paperwork is still in the typewriter."
Under civil service regulations, a suspension must be preceded by a 30-day wait for administrative review.
Chiechi said the GSA's inspector general would investigate the matter, including the responsiblities of James Schultz, the supervisor to whom Clay gave the $1.3 million check. Chiechi has made no recommendation on possible disciplinary action against Schultz.
"We're waiting for the investigation to conclude to determine whether Schultz did, indeed, commit any indiscretion here," Chiechi said. "It is not a disputed fact that Clay gave a check to Schultz. But it was Clay's responsibiity to carry the consummation of the whole event."
Williams said the union is asking the GSA to "withdraw any proposed action" until the investigation is completed.