A former senior National Labor Relations Board ethics officer testified in a sworn affidavit that the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) incorrectly failed to recommend civil or criminal action against NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon in a conflict of interest investigation.
The OIG acts as an independent body to investigate claims of ethical misconduct against NLRB members. It launched an investigation in 2012 into Solomon’s conduct in a potential NLRB lawsuit against Wal-Mart, according to legal documents obtained by the Daily Caller.
Solomon’s alleged misconduct in the Wal-Mart case stemmed from his ownership of stock in the company, which he inherited from his mother when she died in July 2011.
The OIG concluded that Solomon, whom President Barack Obama appointed NLRB’s Acting General Counsel in June 2010, violated conflict of interest law, but that “extenuating and mitigating circumstances” — including an adversarial relationship with a co-worker — should shield him from criminal prosecution.
That co-worker, former NLRB Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) Gloria Joseph, strongly disagreed with the OIG’s recommendation to allow Solomon to avoid responsibility, according to her sworn affidavit dated November 29, 2012.
“The Inspector General’s conclusion that my actions in this matter were influenced by a strained relationship between Mr. Solomon and myself is incorrect,” Joseph wrote in her affidavit.
“While there may be circumstances that warrant mitigating the remedy for an ethics violation, the circumstances cited by the IG do not fit the bill,” Joseph claimed in a separate memorandum cited in that affidavit.
Joseph was replaced in her position at the NLRB in August 2012, during the OIG investigation.
Prompted in part by Joseph’s claims, the legal advocacy group Cause of Action sent a Dec. 7 request to the Department of Justice for a new investigation into the Solomon case. Cause of Action claimed that the OIG “shifted the blame away from Solomon” in order to resolve a case that has caused turmoil within the NLRB and a headache for the Obama administration.
The case dates back to January 2012, when the NLRB considered suing Wal-Mart over allegations that it violated federal labor laws with its social media policy.
Despite holding more than $15,000 in Wal-Mart stock, Solomon attended a meeting in his office with the NLRB’s Division of Advice on Jan. 23. Solomon expressed in the meeting his desire for the NLRB to delay the lawsuit and instead “reach out” to Wal-Mart to encourage the company to change its social media policy.
Solomon “directed his subordinates to contact the Wal-Mart representatives to attempt to reach a resolution,” according to the OIG.
It wasn’t until one week later, on Jan. 30, that he disclosed his Wal-Mart stake to the deputy general counsel of the NLRB. The deputy general counsel informed him that he would need to obtain a waiver to participate in the case.
Joseph denied Solomon’s waiver request. Solomon sold his Wal-Mart stock on February 27.
Wal-Mart changed its social media policy, and the NLRB never pursued a lawsuit against the company.