In a case of Washington office politics that includes official complaints, transfers, firings, lawyers and, of course, old connections, the National Mediation Board may need some mediating.
A former chief of staff of the board filed complaints against the agency last year, saying she was targeted by a Bush-appointed board member who she says was responsible for her eventual dismissal.
The board would not comment on the allegations and dismissal of Benetta Mansfield. And nothing has been resolved.
Mansfield said in the complaints filed in April 2004 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Special Counsel that she was harassed and ultimately removed as chief of staff by then-Chairman Edward J. Fitzmaurice Jr., who remains on the board.
Mansfield says that as an elections monitor for the rerun of the 1996 International Brotherhood of Teamsters election, she supervised an investigation into the actions of James D. Potter, who was a Teamsters official for the Southern region. As a result of her investigation, he was charged with wrongdoing and barred from a seat on the Teamsters board.
During that period, Fitzmaurice was a lawyer with James L. Hicks and Associates of Dallas, the firm that represented Potter. Mansfield said she believes it was the Teamsters issue that caused the problems between her and Fitzmaurice.
In the complaint, Mansfield, a Democrat, says that when Fitzmaurice joined the board in August 2002, he began expressing hostility toward her, asking the board to reconsider her responsibilities, which called for her to manage the agency staff. He was, according to Beth Slavet, her attorney, overruled by the two other members.
On July 1, 2003, Fitzmaurice became chairman.
When Francis Duggan, Mansfield's supervisor and a Republican board member appointed by President Bill Clinton, left in November 2003, he gave Mansfield an "outstanding" rating for the year. In mid-December, Fitzmaurice gave Mansfield her evaluation, and had lowered Duggan's rating, according to Slavet.
Duggan said he helped find Fitzmaurice for the job. But, he said, it became clear there would be problems. "Out of the blue one day, he says, 'I've got a real problem with this Mansfield,' " Duggan said in an interview. "He was always on her case. He was quite hostile to her."
"He would insult her ability," Duggan added. "He would say off-color things to her, he would denigrate her in the eyes of her employees."
Mansfield said that Fitzmaurice was increasingly hostile from December 2003 through December 2004. During that time, her performance rating and bonus were decreased, she was increasingly isolated, and her responsibilities as chief of staff were diminished.
After Fitzmaurice gave Mansfield the downgraded review, she was given a new delegation order that "gutted the [chief of staff] job," Slavet said.
Mary L. Johnson, the board's general counsel, said: "All that I can tell you is that the Privacy Act precludes me from commenting on this ongoing personnel matter." Fitzmaurice referred a request to comment to Johnson.
According to documents, Mansfield was informed on Sept. 14, 2004, that the chief of staff position was being abolished. She was demoted to senior counsel in the board's office of legal affairs and then transferred to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which is a separate agency.
Slavet said Mansfield was told her job was eliminated several days after The Washington Post, after learning about the complaints, called the board. Mansfield was told she would be part of a one-person reduction because there was not enough work.
Nine months later, she was told to return to the board on Aug. 1 to take over senior counsel duties there, according to Slavet. Then on Aug. 17, Mansfield was told she would be let go. Her last day was Oct. 31. Mansfield is appealing her termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board.