Politics

Don’t Fire Bureaucrats, Washington Post ‘Federal Insider’ Columnist Pleads

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor
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President-elect Donald Trump wants to fire corrupt and unproductive bureaucrats faster than the law currently permits, but a Washington Post federal-beat columnist argues that career civil service government employees need protection even if it also shields bad workers.

Trump’s plans “injure due process for civil servants while undermining the agency meant to protect them,” Joe Davidson wrote Monday. Federal officials need “procedures protecting civil servants from being fired at will, like a contestant on a Trump reality show.”

Davidson, a veteran reporter and desk editor with the Post, before that with the Wall Street Journal, covers the federal bureaucracy in a regular column entitled “Federal Insider.”

Yet Davidson’s Trump column said nothing about the many cases where federal employees aren’t fired despite extensive evidence of often criminal malfeasance. Davidson also didn’t consider how difficult it is to terminate an official even for nonpolitical reasons. (RELATED: Here Are Five Ways Trump Can Strip The Government Of Waste And #DrainTheSwamp)

Government workers have been caught falsifying documents for personal gain and inappropriately hiring relatives, among other illegal or unethical acts, as The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has extensively reported.

Often, however, the Department of Justice declines prosecution despite the evidence. (RELATED: Lynch A No-Show At Hearing On Why DOJ Won’t Prosecute Federal Crooks)

As a result, the odds of a career federal worker being fired are about one-in-500, TheDCNF previously reported. Layers of bureaucracy, employment laws and powerful government unions make it difficult to terminate career civil servants. (RELATED: Here’s Why It’s All But Impossible To Fire A Fed)

Trump and his advisors are actively seeking new ways to eliminate civil servants’ job protections to make it easier to fire poorly performing and law-breaking employees.

Davidson also argued that government employees should be able to appeal firings and other workplace discipline in order to protect them against partisan political attacks. He called bipartisan legislation passed in the wake of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wait-time scandal “degrading.”

“The public is the main beneficiary of civil service laws that also protect employee rights,” Davidson wrote. “Debasing civil service protections not only endangers current employee rights but also can affect recruitment efforts.”

Yet the appeals process also has negative consequences.

A case before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) – the agency that handles such appeals – averages 243 days. In some instances, the board will force an agency to reverse its decision to fire an employee, despite evidence of wrongdoing.

Two VA officials created jobs for themselves, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, while a third disregarded patient care, TheDCNF reported. The VA removed all three from their positions, but MSPB reversed those decisions.

Davidson did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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