By William Wiley, January 18, 2017

If you watched many of the hundreds of college football bowl games recently, you might have noticed something I’ve not seen before. Apparently, there were at least a couple of senior superstars who chose not to play in their team’s bowl game to protect themselves from potential injury that would have reduced their respective values in the upcoming drafts for the pro teams. In other words, they sacrificed the benefit they would have provided to their team in the bowl for their own personal reasons.

There was banter among the talking head commentators as to whether such a self-centered non-team selfish decision was “good” or “bad,” whatever those relative terms mean in the world of college sports. “What about team spirit?” some said. “If it hadn’t been for his teammates and coaches, they guy might not even be going in the pro draft. He owes them.” Others took a different path. “He’s got to look out for himself. There are millions of dollars at stake, perhaps even an entire pro career. He’d be crazy to put that at risk for the sake of a team he’s about to leave.”

My vote count certainly isn’t scientific, perhaps clouded by a bit of guacamole and light beer, but I think that I counted more commentators opting for the “take care of yourself” approach over the “take care of the team that brought you here” option. It seems those former pro players who announce the college games learned the hard way that taking care of Number One should be a player’s Number One priority. The Spock/Kirk-view that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” is mainly for science fiction.

Apparently, the now-former Chairman of MSPB shares the opinion of the majority of the sports commentators. As you long-time readers of this here newsletter know, our profession has been concerned about the impending end of the Board Chairman’s appointment. MSPB is a three-membered board. Currently, it has a position that has been vacant for well over a year, leaving just two members. The good news is that even with only two members, MSPB has been able to issue final opinions and orders because it has a quorum. However, with only one member, the Board’s judges can continue to do their work, but MSPB cannot issue final orders without a quorum of Board members.

And as of January 7, we no longer have a quorum at MSPB. Effective that week, Chairman Grundmann cast her last vote as a Board member, then quit. Her term was set to expire on March 1, and most Board watchers expected her to serve to that date, as had her predecessors. However, Ms Grundmann decided to depart before the end of her term, leaving the Board unable to issue any final orders until President Trump’s replacement nominee is confirmed by the Senate.

Though unlikely given the notorious confirmation process, it is conceivable that President Trump could have a replacement Chairman ready to take over soon after March 1. If that were to occur and had Ms Grundmann served out her term, the no-quorum period of no-votes at MSPB might have been short if at all existent. Given the former-Chairman’s early departure, now the civil service is guaranteed a period of several weeks of an inoperative MSPB no matter how quickly the President and Senate work to appoint new members. In 2015, the Board issued about 60 final decisions per week. If it were at the same pace for this year, that would equate to about 300-350 final orders that could have been issued that will not be issued.

I leave it up to you, our wonderful readers, to decide if that’s “good” or “bad.” Here at FELTG, we certainly do not claim to know nearly as much about teamwork as do those guys who announced the bowl games, and we take no position on the former Chairman’s personal decision. If there is a fault here, it is that Congress did not foresee that Board members will be making personal career decisions, and that there should be a statutory mechanism in place to prevent the lights being turned off at MSPB (or FLRA or EEOC or NLRB) headquarters when something like this occurs. Officially, we wish Ms Grundmann the best in the future, wherever that might take her. People are entitled to make personal career decisions and to determine the value of teamwork.

At the same time, we feel sadness for those appellants and agencies represented in those 300 or so appeals who will have to wait extra weeks or months for a final decision in their cases. Football teams have backup players to replace those who choose not to play. As Congress assesses the future of oversight agencies like the Board, hopefully it will give consideration to developing a system to prevent this sort of delay from occurring again. Our country is too important to allow civil service accountability to be delayed when an appointee’s personal career decisions diminish the ability of the team to continue to function. [email protected]

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