The honesty policy

A recent case decided by the Federal Court of Appeals underscores the importance

of telling the truth on a federal job application.

The case in point involves Gerrick Craine, a former Army employee. In

November 1997, the Army hired Craine as a heavy mobile equipment repairer.

As part of the application process leading up to his employment, Craine

completed a "Declaration for Federal Employment," in which he was asked,

"During the last 10 years, have you been convicted, been imprisoned, been

on probation, or been on parole?"

If the answer was "Yes," the form requested detailed information. Craine

checked the box labeled "No." He also signed a certification indicating

he understood that a false or fraudulent answer to any question in the declaration

could be grounds for not hiring him, for firing him or for prosecuting him.

After Craine was hired, the Army asked the Office of Personnel Management

to conduct a security background investigation of him. As part of that investigation,

Craine completed a form titled, "Questionnaire for National Security Positions."

In that questionnaire, Craine said that he had never been charged with or

convicted of a felony and had never been charged with or convicted of any

offense related to alcohol. Craine signed the form's certification, similar

to the one mentioned above.

OPM's investigation revealed that Craine was no choirboy. He was convicted

in 1993 for driving while intoxicated, convicted in 1996 for battery, arrested

in 1997 for battery, and arrested and convicted in 1998 in connection with

the 1997 battery charge. He was jailed for 60 days.

After obtaining the information, OPM notified Craine that he was unsuitable

for federal employment because he had intentionally made false or deceptive

statements in job-related documents by knowingly omitting pertinent information

concerning his criminal record. Craine was fired; then he appealed OPM's

determination to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Craine admitted that he hadn't filled out the forms properly but said

he hadn't understood the questions. Yeah, right. The MSPB said there was

no evidence to support what Craine maintained and said he was lying. That

made him unsuitable for federal service and therefore it was proper for

the Army to fire him.

Craine then appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals. The court made

short shrift of Craine's appeal. It also found nothing to support Craine's

allegation and upheld the MSPB's decision.

Craine was foolish to have expected that his criminal record would not

surface. After all, his job required a security clearance, and that means

a full background investigation. Crane got what he deserved — nothing less.

I hope everyone gets the message: Don't lie on a federal job application.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus

column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at miltzall@starpower.net."Putting your faith in trusts, trustees" [FCW.com, Oct. 6, 2000] /fcw/articles/2000/1002/web-zall-10-06-00.asp

"What protection" [Federal Computer Week, Sept. 18, 2000] /fcw/articles/2000/0918/mgt-milt-09-18-00.asp

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