U.S. Postal Service offers buyouts

The U.S. Postal Service is offering buyouts to almost all of its 45,000 career mail handlers, the first of an expected wave of efforts by the agency to thin its workforce.

Mail handlers are being offered $15,000 to leave, in installments in December and a year later. Almost all career employees covered by the Postal Service’s contract with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are eligible, postal officials said.

The agreement with the mail handlers — announced Friday — came a week after postal officials announced plans to proceed with consolidating and closing 48 mail processing plants this summer. The plant network will shrink by half in the next three years, eliminating 28,000 jobs through attrition and buyouts.

In a statement on its Web site, the mail handlers union wrote, “The agreement with the Postal Service is intended to provide a financial cushion, an added peace of mind, for mail handlers who might be prepared to move on to the next chapter of their lives by leaving the Postal Service — a decision that could be particularly trying during these difficult economic times.”

The Postal Service also announced plans this month to cut hours at 13,000 rural post offices, some drastically, in an effort to keep open thousands of retail operations it had planned to shutter. Postal officials are offering buyouts to about 21,000 postmasters.

The financially troubled agency is to lose $14 billion this year.

— Lisa Rein

Congressman criticizes GSA’s plan for Neely

Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) criticized the retirement package received by Jeffrey Neely, the General Services Administration official caught in a scandal over spending on a 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he will propose legislation to halt payments to senior executives who decline to testify on cases of abuse, as Neely did.

Neely, who was responsible for the $823,000 employee conference, will likely receive $100,000 in annual compensation, according to the Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Public Buildings Service. Neely, who left the agency Thursday, was the public buildings commissioner for GSA’s Pacific Rim region.

At the time of the conference, he was acting regional commissioner, the top job in the region, while simultaneously holding his position within the Public Buildings Service.

Neely was put on administrative leave in early April after a GSA inspector general’s report found excessive spending at the conference and instances of contracting violations.

“After the revelations of the outrageous overspending at GSA under Jeff Neely’s watch, it took an inordinate amount of time for him to be taken off the taxpayers’ dole,” Mica said in a statement. “Our highest ranking public servants shouldn’t get a 30-day paid vacation for wasting almost a million dollars and then stonewalling congressional investigators.”

Neely was asked to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in April. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before the Oversight panel, and he did not appear before the Transportation subcommittee.

— Timothy R. Smith