The Navy's decision to fire an award-winning government attorney for no specific reason has stimulated a congressional inquiry into lack of protection for thousands of specialized government employes.
Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.), a member of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, said today that the preliminary investigation may lead to legislation guaranteeing due process to 17,000 federal attorneys and others who are employed under "excepted service."
The inquiry began after The Washington Post reported Dec. 10 that Stephen Stokwitz, general counsel of the Navy Ocean Systems Center in San Diego, was dismissed Oct. 10 and hindered in the search for a new job by a secret Navy report that he was barred from seeing.
Stokwitz said that Navy officials told him they had dropped charges of allegedly making personal telephone calls, coercing loans and making fraudulent travel claims.
He said the charges apparently were made by disgruntled employes whose work he had criticized and were filed only days after the Navy Ocean Systems Center commander, who had recommended his recent promotion, was transferred to another post.
Despite the lack of charges, the $52,500-a-year, GS15 attorney was told that his services were "no longer needed."
"Excepted service" employes, who include most federal attorneys and some other specialists, may be hired without passing government examinations but cannot appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board if dismissed.
In a legal brief filed as part of the government's effort to stop a court order that the Navy reinstate Stokwitz, Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Neece said such employes "can be dismissed at will for no grounds but certainly when there is any whiff of scandal."
Stokwitz said Navy officials have told prospective employers about the supposedly dropped charges against him, killing his chances for a new job.
He said Navy officials also have asked two of his friends about their sex lives, examined his tax return and as recently as last week forwarded a personal letter to him with the envelope open.
In a Dec. 12 letter, Dymally asked Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. to review the Stokwitz case. In "excepted service" cases, Dymally said legislation may be needed "to assure fairness and due process when there are managerial-employe grievances and disputes."
Stokwitz and his attorney, Thomas Gilmore, are seeking a hearing on grounds that he has been illegally stigmatized by the dismissal.