Federal employees were praised at the 2017 Service to America Medals gala. (Aaron Clamage)
Columnist

President Trump represents the United States, but he is not representative of federal employees. If they, like he, repeatedly lied and disgraced the nation, they would face termination.

Federal regulations allow for action against employees who engage in “dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct.” A Trump emoji would be well-placed next to that line.

While it certainly describes Trump, it is just the opposite of federal employees who are devoted to mission, whose examples could provide needed instruction to the chief executive.

Now it’s time to honor the workers, particularly those whose accomplishments are exceptional.

This is Public Service Recognition Week. The Partnership for Public Service, a primary driver of the celebration, kicked it off Sunday with the release of the names of 27 finalists for the Service to America Medals, better known as the Sammies.

This is a big deal. The finalists save lives, save money and innovate. The winners will be celebrated at an annual formal gala in October that always draws Washington’s big names. Think of the Sammies as cousins to the Oscars.

“Amid the political headlines, it’s easy to overlook our nation’s career public servants who perform the essential day-to-day work of government,” said Max Stier, the partnership’s president and CEO.  “That’s why the Service to America Medals are so important — they showcase the many remarkable men and women who assist their fellow Americans with passion to maintain the safety, health and prosperity of the nation.”

But this time, the week comes with its own controversy.

This year, Oct. 13 to be exact, marks the 40th anniversary of the Civil Service Reform Act. As part of the week’s programs, the partnership will host a forum Wednesday on civil service reform. Oddly, the panel on a subject that directly affects the lives of more than 2 million federal employees has no representatives of rank-and-file federal employees. The announced panelists are dominated by current and former federal managers, including a former award winner representing young employees, plus a couple of other experts.

Make no mistake: The partnership, Stier in particular, is among the strongest advocates for the federal workforce. Feds are the focal point of programs and publications of the partnership, which concentrates on federal management and workplace issues. That makes the absence of the employee voice on the panel during a week recognizing employees all the more noticeable.

When the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union, learned about the forum, it asked to participate. “The request was denied,” said Jacqueline Simon, the organization’s public policy director. “We were told that we were welcome to be part of the audience and to ask questions, but we were not to be included in the formal discussion. It’s unfortunate that federal employees are not to have a seat at the table. As the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

Union representation would have added another dimension to the discussion because union leaders think the civil service needs much less reform than top officials and other good-government types generally do.

Stier defended the panel’s makeup, saying, “We do a ton of different events and we’ve done many conversations with employee groups and with the SEA,” referring to the Senior Executives Association. “And in this particular event we’re looking and talking to people who’ve actually led organizations. So it’s different; it’s a different purpose.”

Two federal union presidents, including the AFGE’s, will help select the Sammy winners, who, unlike Trump, represent the finest in public service. Trump’s Washington Post Fact Checker prevarication rate is almost 6.5 a day.

“If federal employees were in the newspapers on a regular basis as someone who knowingly misrepresented the truth, there would be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including removal under the government standards of conduct,” said John Palguta, who was a senior executive for more than 20 years with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, after working at the Office of Personnel Management.

Many feds deserve to be in the news for the incredible work they do, especially these finalists:

Career achievement medal finalists

Gerald Ankley, Environmental Protection Agency, Duluth, Minn.

Judith Lynn Allaire DesHarnais, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul, Minn.

Allen R. Hefner Jr., National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md.

John J. Sammarco, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh

Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta

Homeland security and law enforcement medal finalists

Mark L. Bathrick and team, Interior Department, Boise, Idaho

Stephen C. Curren and the Cyber Incident Response Team, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington

Karen D. Dodge, Federal Trade Commission, Chicago; and Margaret Moeser, Justice Department, Washington; and their teams

Blake Douglas Rowe, Army Criminal Investigation Command, Forest Park, Ga.

Jeffrey Elliott Wood Jr. and the North Shore Gang Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chelsea, Mass.

Management excellence medal finalists

Guy Demeter, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington

Ariel Gold, Department of Transportation, Washington

Marcella Jacobs and the Digital Services Team, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington

Andy Neal and the National Flood Insurance Program Reinsurance Program Team, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington

National security and international affairs medal finalists

Andrew M. Herscowitz and the Power Africa Team, U.S. Agency for International Development, Pretoria, South Africa

David Huizenga, National Nuclear Security Administration, Washington

Matthew Nims and team, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington

Hoa Thi Tran and team, State Department, Washington

Promising innovations medal finalists

Barney S. Graham and Theodore C. Pierson, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md.

Parimal Kopardekar, and team, NASA, Moffett Field, Calif.

Jordan T. Manos, Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy (on detail to FEMA in 2017), Frederick, Md.

Alison Smith, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Ind.

Science and environment medal finalists

Margaret Honein, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta

Daniel L. Kastner, National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Md.

Barbara G. Kutchko, Department of Energy, Pittsburgh

Soheila J. Maleki, Agricultural Research Service, New Orleans

Tim Schmit, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Madison, Wis.

You can read about their work at servicetoamericamedals.org.

Read more:

[Trump administration puts civil service overhaul on fast track]

[Trump administration plans major overhaul of civil service system, but no specifics yet]

[New OPM chief presses for civil service overhaul, but administration is less interested in diversity]