A government employee union official physically attacked a law enforcement officer in Nevada while arguing that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) workers aren’t obligated to help expose official corruption and criminality by cooperating with the agency’s independent watchdog.
The attack occurred in Reno in 2012 as the Inspector General’s office (IG) presented a slideshow to a group of VA employees about investigating integrity violations. David de Silva, then vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees local union, became incensed and got physical. Police had to separate the men.
The previously-unreported fight and labor dispute was revealed in arbitration documents from an obscure federal mediator. TheDCNF noticed the document because the AFGE National VA Council boasted about the ruling.
De Silva was angry that the slideshow emphasized cooperating with probes of problems at VA, saying employees there could refuse to say anything to government investigators just as accused criminals can remain silent with police.
During “the OIG’s slide presentation on crime prevention and awareness, 30 or more employees of the VA were in attendance,” states a November 2013 labor arbitration report stemming from the fight. Included in the audience was union vice-president David de Silva, who was also a former employee of the VA.”
“At some point during the slide presentation, VP de Silva interrupted OIG Agent Lore’s presentation alleging that Agent Lore was putting forth incorrect information regarding bargaining unit employees rights,” the report continues. A verbal exchange between the two men ensued that escalated into a physical altercation later in the hallway. The police were called, who then took charge and handled the altercation.”
The issue at the heart of the conflict was known as “Weingarten rights,” from a Supreme Court decision holding that a federal worker can refuse to speak when management is considering discipline, as well as request the presence of a union representative. De Silva believed the slideshow did not sufficiently emphasize Weingarten.
IG agents are not management and cannot impose discipline, but a 1999 federal court ruling held that Weingarten applies to interviews with IG agents, Cathy Gromek, a spokeswoman for the VA IG, told the Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday.
The arbitrator, from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, also said that VA employees can refuse to cooperate with investigators, but its justification was more simplistic–and potentially more troublesome.
“If the union’s vice president and the OIG agent had behaved as mature adults and discussed their differences in a civilized manner, they would have found that their differences were imaginary” because the VA-union contract allows employees to have a union representative present during IG interviews, a federal arbiter wrote.
The contract’s references to investigations refer to internal probes undertaken by managers, not the IG. The words “inspector general” appear only once in the 330-page contract, in a different section.
The union contract is between VA and AFGE, while the IG is an independent entity reporting to Congress and not a party to the agreement. An arbitrator assuming that management’s pledges can bind an IG imply that the IG is subordinate to management–a sensitive area because the VA IG has been criticized for being too deferential to VA management.
Weingarten aside, VA spokesman Gromek said, “there is no requirement for IGs to comply with the terms of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement which may require notice to the employee.”
De Silva has since decided that the VA and the union are both corrupt and that independent investigators needed to be empowered to bust corruption, not obstructed.
“I was the executive vice president of AFGE Local 2152 at the Reno VA from 2009 – 2013, and let me tell you just how much these union people really are d—-e bags! With few exceptions, they all abuse the paid official time they are allowed … The union needs to have its wings clipped,” de Silva wrote recently on Facebook.
“They have a national budget of about $66 million per year with very little of that being used to defend good employees but millions are spent on trips, conventions, food, alcohol, hotels, parties, and the list goes on.
“I also criticized the national president J. David Cox and was ostracized for that, too, so the lesson here is, if you are a good ass-kissing union person, you will go far. If you try and call out corruption within the union, you get thrown under the bus!”
“The AFGE will stop at nothing to keep itself relevant by keeping the failed VA system on life support. Without the VA, the AFGE folds!” he wrote in another Facebook post this week.
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