By William Wiley, August 16, 2017

These days, the very foundations of our civil service are being reconsidered. Are the rights of our citizens being served by the federal government greater or less than the rights of individual civil servants employed by that government?

For example, consider a hypothetical situation in which the individuals appointed and hired to run a government agency have decided that an employee of that agency is not doing his job, perhaps is even engaging in dangerous conduct. If they decide to fire that employee, should another government entity – one not responsible for the output of the government – be empowered to require the employing agency to keep the individual at work? Keep in mind that the agency who knows him best and is accountable for his actions has decided he should be fired. Should our system allow for that decision to be overridden, even if only temporarily?

Well, that’s what we have today. OPM, an agency that provides no services directly to the general public, has promulgated a draft rule requiring agencies to keep employees at work for three to four weeks after the decision to fire them has been made. OSC, an agency not responsible for government efficiency, accountability, or costs has the authority to stop the removal of a bad employee if it believes it is “probable” that the removal is not based on merit. The employing agency that is accountable for the employee’s conduct has already determined that it is at least “more likely than not” that the employee should be fired. OSC, who has no skin in the game, comes along and concludes that it is “probable” that the agency has acted unfairly.

Is this how government should work? Because if it’s not, then Congress should be addressing this issue legislatively. As the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs has been quoted as saying recently, when confronted by a stay order obtained by OSC to block the removal of a senior manager, “No judge who has never run a hospital and never cared for our nation’s veterans will force me to put an employee back in a position when he allowed the facility to pose potential safety risks to our veterans.”

That’s EXACTLY the issue Congress needs to be addressing. Who should be running the government? Managers responsible for the work of government or adjudicators who are not? [email protected]

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