Retaliation alleged at BPA, interim administrator named

July 16, 2013 

BPA Administrator

This undated photo from the Bonneville Power Administration shows Elliot Mainzer, who has been named acting administrator of the federal power marketing agency for the Northwest. The Department of Energy named Mainzer to replace BPA administrator Bill Drummond after receiving an inspector general's report on allegations that BPA did not properly apply hiring preferences for veterans, and that managers may have retaliated against employees who cooperated with the investigation.

AP

— Allegations have been raised that Bonneville Power Administration employees were retaliated against for raising issues of possible improper hiring practices, including those giving preference to veterans, according to a management alert released Tuesday by the DOE Office of Inspector General.

In response the DOE deputy secretary, Daniel Poneman, directed an immediate review of BPA’s management.

He also directed the administrator of BPA last week to take no adverse actions against employees, to reverse actions that had been taken and to instruct any employee on administrative leave to return to work.

BPA’s acting deputy administrator, Elliot Mainzer, has been named interim acting administrator employees were told Monday.

Bill Drummond has been serving as BPA’s administrator since Steve Wright retired in February after serving as administrator for 12 years.

The inspector general management report said that the preliminary results of its investigation determined that BPA had engaged in prohibited personnel practices in 65 percent of its competitive recruitments from November 2010 to June 2012. That was 95 of 146 cases.

Practices involved modifying the best qualified category after all applications were received, which resulted in the inappropriate exclusion of veterans and other applicants from consideration for selection, according to the management alert.

The findings were consistent with an internal review conducted by the DOE Office of the Chief Human Capital, according to the management alert.

On June 21 it suspended BPA’s authority to promote employees based on merit, which prevents BPA from advertising and filling some jobs.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management also conducted a review and revoked the certification of certain BPA staff to recruit, according to the management alert.

The DOE Office of Inspector General also discovered that BPA had initiated questionable adverse personnel actions against some staff members who had cooperated in reviews of BPA personnel practices or had previously raised concerns to BPA management.

“While we are not in a position at this point to conclude that the actions taken thus far are retaliatory in nature, we are deeply concerned,” the management alert said.

Employees in the BPA human capital management department alleged that after raising issues they lost their jobs, were threatened with losing their jobs, were suspended or were given a performance improvement plan.

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