The Government Needs To Hold More Federal Employees Accountable For Misconduct

Rep. Louie Gohmert | Congressman, Texas 1st District

When Hurricane Harvey crashed onto Texas shores, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worked tirelessly to come to our citizens’ aid. Unfortunately, in the months since then, information has been released regarding a top FEMA official who abused his position to harass co-workers and create inappropriate environments.

According to numerous reports, FEMA personnel chief, Corey Coleman, fostered a culture of widespread sexual harassment during his time with the agency. This case makes clear that while a majority of civil servants are working tirelessly for the American people, a few bad actors can corrupt an entire agency.

In our current system, the process for removing these bad actors is nearly impossible.

According to data obtained by FedScope, only 0.5 percent of federal employees have been fired in recent years for poor performance or misconduct. Meanwhile, a 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that once a decision is made to fire a federal employee, removing them from office can take between six months to a year, if not longer.

Draining the swamp is not just fiscally responsible, it is absolutely essential to creating a lasting climate of accountability in our nation’s capital – which is the real battle we are fighting.

Washington dysfunction runs deep. True change must uproot systemic injustices and remove those in government who perpetuate them. Meanwhile, all of us in government must begin insisting upon excellence and stop incentivizing ineptitude.

This is the essence of the MERIT (Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation) Act — a piece of legislation I am proud to co-sponsor. The MERIT Act allows for the expedited removal of federal employees who have either engaged in misconduct or who are failing to perform their duties. It also expedites the appeals process in the event these employees protest their termination.

Don’t forget the case of the VA employee found guilty of neglecting patients with extraordinary waits for treatment or care, and fraudulently creating imaginary, short wait-times which led to employee performance bonuses. She also accepted $50,000 in gifts from the medical industry, while accusations of retaliation against whistleblowers were leveled against her. The Obama Administration’s VA leaders fired her in 2015. A federal Circuit Court of Appeals decided the VA should not have fired her. She needed to be back at the VA preventing veterans from getting the care they desperately needed even if her actions led to their death.

The sensible reforms of the new MERIT Act were included in the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, a law overwhelmingly approved by Congress and signed by President Trump last year. Lawmakers of both parties have praised this legislation for giving the VA secretary the tools necessary to “hold bad employees accountable” and end the culture of corruption at the U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.

Thanks to this legislation and no thanks to federal courts, our veterans have a better chance of receiving the support and medical care they deserve.

Unfortunately, these rules only apply to the VA. The rest of the federal government remains shockingly impervious to accountability.

Alarmingly, recent efforts by the Trump administration to hold the federal government more accountable have been struck down by activist judges. A federal district judge recently invalidated most of the provisions of three executive orders President Trump issued to make it easier to fire federal employees.

Abuse exists in all areas of government and we cannot ignore it unless it affects our veterans. This is no way to run a government.

Some federal employees may be concerned, but hard-working employees should take heart that if we can get this passed, supervisors who abuse other federal employees can be removed and the abused federal employees can have a decent workplace free of protected dictators. Some employees have related how miserable their federal employment was because of a horrendous boss that federal law protected from being fired.

This law will change that.

Glaring employment issues at the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Justice Department, IRS, and the Intelligence agencies among so many other agencies, require that we take the bipartisan reforms being successfully implemented at the VA and apply them across the federal behemoth.

No matter the agency or department, civil service abuse of other federal employees and the American people who are forced to bow before capricious federal abusers must not be tolerated any longer. Further, bureaucratic insolence, maltreatment of other workers and the general public while it also drains taxpayers’ pocketbooks can no longer be rewarded with lifetime employment and pensions.

There simply has to be accountability, before the cure for the spoils system illness becomes worse than the disease.

Enabling lawlessness and rewarding lethargy is the way of the swamp. We will never drain the swamp unless we can fire the swamp.

To show your support for the MERIT Act, please take a moment to visit the website FireTheSwamp.com and let your lawmaker know you support extending the bipartisan good government reforms adopted by the VA to the rest of the federal government.

Congressman Gohmert is the Vice Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Prior to being elected to serve in Congress, he was elected to three terms as District Judge in Smith County, Texas and was appointed by then Texas Governor Rick Perry to complete a term as Chief Justice of the 12th Court of Appeals.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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