Bill provides means to punish execs for misconduct

Martha Johnson

Former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned at the revelation of the conference spending scandal that prompted Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) to introduce H.R. 6016. (GSA photo)

In still more fallout from General Services Administration’s conference scandal, legislation has passed the House that would allow Senior Executive Service employees to be placed on unpaid leave when being investigated for misconduct. The Government Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 6016) was approved on Dec. 19 by a vote of 402 to 2.

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who introduced the bill in June, said the legislation “was created in response to my constituents who simply asked, ‘How can a federal employee who was largely responsible for a notorious government spending scandal still be able to collect pay even though he’s not showing up for work?’" The answer, he said, "was that the federal agency had no other choice.”

In addition to allowing for unpaid leave when senior executives ae accused of misappropriation of funds, misconduct, neglect of duty, or malfeasance, the bill would cap both paid and unpaid investigative leaves at six months. After that, an agency would have to remove, suspend or reinstate the employee.

GSA’s conference in Las Vegas caused many senior agency officials to be fired or resign from their positions. One official did not initially resign but was put on administrative leave. While on leave from April to May, he received more than $15,000. When Kelly asked why he was still be paid, the official response was that “there are no mechanisms available to GSA to remove the individuals from the payroll while the disciplinary process progresses,” according to the congressman.

The Senior Executives Association, a non-profit that advocates for the interests of SES officials, sent a letter to House members on Dec. 17 urging them to oppose the bill. "On its face it might seem reasonable to make the changes suggested in the bill," SEA President Carol A. Bonosaro and General Counsel William L. Bransford wrote. "In practice, the changes proposed by H.R. 6016 are unnecessary and could lead agencies to be more reluctant to hold employees accountable rather than strengthening their disciplinary toolbox."

However, only Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who represents a large number of federal workers, and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), whose Sacramento district has the California state government as its largest employer, voted against the bill.

SES employees need not be concerned about the bill just yet, however. There is no indication that the Senate intends to take it up during the lame duck session.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Fri, Dec 21, 2012

I wonder why the congress and senate are exempt from this? After all, the SES could be said to following their leaders...

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