One fallout from the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a brewing dispute among federal employee organizations.
The Senior Executives Association (SEA) and the Federal Managers Association (FMA) want congressional leaders to investigate a “management hit list” compiled by the VA’s union against department managers and executives.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the two associations often agree on issues involving pay, benefits and workplace protections. But the associations said the list is “a troubling development … that threatens to further destabilize labor-management relations at a department that has faced serious challenges in recent years.”
The VA has been the subject of congressional investigations into the cover-up of bogus wait lists and long wait times for VA patients. The scandal led to the resignation of the former secretary last year.
The list was first reported last month by my colleague Colby Itkowitz. Bill Preston, president of AFGE Local 17, which represents employees at the VA headquarters in Washington, told her that VA Secretary Bob McDonald asked Preston for the names of supervisors who are not performing after Preston said firing them is necessary to improve the agency. Almost three dozen managers were listed.
The July article quoted an email from Preston to McDonald that said the union’s report is like a “guide to terrible management for the purpose of systematically destroying the ability of the United States government to function effectively.”
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said he could not comment on the associations’ reaction to the list because he has not seen Preston’s report.
In a letter to Capitol Hill, SEA President Carol A. Bonosaro and FMA President Patricia J. Niehaus said Congress should investigate if the report was developed on “official time,” which allows union representatives to do union business, in certain circumstances, while being paid by the government.
“To our knowledge, official time does not cover a union investigating agency managers and executives for the purposes of creating a hit list of those it seeks to have removed from the agency,” the letter said.
However, if McDonald asked for the names of poor performing managers, the union can argue it was simply doing what the department’s top boss requested.