Democratic senators said yesterday that Donald J. Devine does not deserve reappointment as head of the Office of Personnel Management because he has ignored Congress' wishes, lowered federal employe morale and politicized the civil service.
Sens. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) and Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) led an attack on Devine at a confirmation hearing before the civil service subcommittee. Under Devine, Sarbanes said, the agency has become a "stable for political hit men" who campaign, then return to their government jobs.
Eagleton charged that Devine has placed political "thought-control officers" in five of the OPM's 10 regional offices to monitor activities of career civil servants.
He said Devine, 47, a former University of Maryland professor, also shattered the civil service oversight agency's 100-year-old tradition of nonpartisanship last fall when he campaigned for Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and against then-Rep. Donald J. Albosta (D-Mich.).
Devine said he sees nothing wrong with a presidential appointee campaigning, adding that nobody protested when he did it in 1982.
Eagleton also attacked Helms, who accompanied Devine to the hearing, for his "beliefs" and his inability to recall whether Devine had campaigned for him. Records show that the Helms reelection committee reimbursed Devine $291.78 for speaking at least twice on behalf of Helms in his Senate race against then-Gov. James B. Hunt (D).
Helms said "just about everybody but Tom Eagleton" came to North Carolina to aid his campaign. He said that Devine had done an excellent job of "making the issue of government efficiency into a lively topic" and that his cost-cutting actions had pleased the vast majority of the public "but not everybody inside the Beltway."
When Eagleton continued to press Helms on whether he recalled Devine taking part in his campaign, Helms replied, "I don't know where you are chasing this rabbit."
Sarbanes said George Nesterczuk, a top Devine aide, left the OPM to manage the campaign of former Prince George's County executive Larry Hogan, who ran against Sarbanes, and "then was back on the job the Monday after the election."
Saying the OPM has "become a stable of political hit men," Sarbanes asked, "What kind of a message does that send to civil servants?
"The integrity of the civil service is at issue," he said, adding that Devine's tenure was marked by "politicization" of the civil service.
Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that Devine "kept up a constant assault on federal employes" and that morale "has been deeply affected."
Devine said he has the highest praise for federal workers' ability but seeks to reform the system that he said makes it "impossible" to reward the best people.
Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said he and Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) had feared President Jimmy Carter's civil service reform act could lead to politicization of the merit-system agency.