By William Wiley, October 12, 2017
If you regularly read the Washington Post or some other big city newspaper, you no doubt have noticed this: about once a month or so, some self-righteous, opinionated, backwater organization will spend a bucket of money to buy an entire page of advertisement to display an “open letter” imploring some powerful individual or organization to do whatever it is that the open-letter author thinks is important. As our little FELTG training group is nothing if not self-righteous, opinionated, and deep, deep backwater, here’s our full page ad for the month. In the spirit of Martin Luther, we plan to nail it to the door of OPM over on E Street NW, just as soon as we figure out how to nail to plate glass:
Late this past summer, you issued a proposed instruction that would place significant burdens on agency officials who need to implement Notice Leave to get an individual out of a government workplace during the 30-day pendency of a proposed removal. Although you promised a final regulation by late September, you decided to indefinitely delay issuing the final version of that instruction for reasons unexplained to the general public.
Hopefully, you made that decision because you got lots of thoughtful comments from readers of this here newsletter and other experienced souls that your proposed regulation was ill-conceived and most likely will get people killed. Well, just in case you’re still thinking about what to do, we offer a single name for your consideration:
Mr. Paddock was the Las Vegas shooter. With no history of violence, no police record, and no documented mental disabilities, he took it upon himself to kill 58 of our fellow citizens, and wound nearly 500 more by shooting at them from an upper floor of a Las Vegas hotel. As of this writing, none of the smart guys has discovered a motive for the shootings. Until we get more information, the best guess is that he just snapped; methodically stock-piling enough guns and ammunition to arm a platoon of soldiers before taking aim and firing at a field of innocents.
We now know that Mr. Paddock had previously been a federal employee for about a decade. He worked at IRS, USPS, and the Defense Contracting Agency, according to media reports. Before you issue your final rule relative to Notice Leave, stop and think for a moment what might have happened if Mr. Paddock had gotten himself in trouble with one of those agencies, perhaps repeatedly coming to work late or failing a performance improvement plan. If nothing else worked to correct his behavior, his supervisor would eventually have proposed his termination, because that’s what we ask our supervisors to do regarding employee accountability.
If your stupid proposed regulation had been in place when that happened, Mr. Paddock’s supervisor most likely would have kept him at work, either in his original workplace in a government building, or perhaps at home on telework where he would still have access to the agency’s computerized data files, maybe even retaining his government credentials that allow him to enter government property. For 30 days. That’s because your proposed Notice Leave rule makes it so difficult for front line supervisors to place an employee in a paid non-duty status, most would not take the trouble to do it. Hey, why should they? Mr. Paddock hasn’t displayed any signs of potential violence. Yes, he’s a grumpy old man, but there are lots of grumpy old men around these days. When you’re putting together the paperwork to fire someone, the last thing you want to do is go through additional paperwork and obtain higher level approval in invoke Notice Leave, as your proposed rule would have required.
Mr. Paddock lived in Nevada, a state with some of the loosest gun laws in the country; e.g., no limit on the number of guns that can be owned and no requirement to have a gun permit to buy a gun. I wonder how many guns and how much ammunition a Nevada resident can amass in a 30-day Notice Period preceding a removal for a government position? And I wonder how much stress a government employee feels when issued a proposed removal notice?
Look, OPM, are you still with us? We implore you. Act like one of the smart guys. You cannot possibly be thinking that 30 days of salary is somehow more important than the lives of our civil servants and the public they serve. You really aren’t interested in denying an agency the ability to use 30 days of paid non-duty time if it saves a civil servant life; you’re interested in curtailing the abuse of this flexibility. So please, rewrite your rule so that, categorically, front line supervisors have the unrestrained authority to place an employee on Notice Leave for 30 days any time a removal is proposed. If you’re concerned about abuse, require all the levels of approval and additional documentation for Notice Leave beyond 30 days as you now have in your proposed rule. Not only might that save lives, as a bonus, it also gives the agency a strong incentive to make decisions on proposed removals promptly.
Come on, come on, come on. Help make America great. Do it for the children. Have a big heart. Get smart. Go green. Take guidance from how the White House fires people. Listen to those of us who have been around a while. Make it easy to invoke Notice Leave and FELTG will personally buy lunch for whoever it is over there that gives the final approval for the rewritten regulation. Heck, we’ll even buy lunch for the whole darned rewrite team, if the change goes through to make Notice Leave easily available.
We have skin in this game, as well, because our speakers work in Federal work spaces throughout government. We don’t want to have to explain to their grandkids that grandpa is not coming home from his last onsite training seminar because of some short-sighted OPM regulation.
And for what it’s worth, you have skin in this game, as well. The next Stephen Paddock could be working right down the hall from you, right now on E Street NW. See him? That guy with the funny mustache and smirk on his face? The one with the Bullets and Bombs magazine in his desk drawer? How’d you feel handing that moron a proposed removal letter?
Yeah, us too.
With All Love and Affection,