On July 15, 2013, Bonneville Power Administration’s (“BPA”) Administrator William Drummond was placed on administrative leave and acting deputy administrator Elliot Mainzer was designated as acting administrator on an interim basis.  BPA’s Chief Operating Officer, Anita Decker, was also placed on administrative leave.  Separately, on July 16, 2013, Department of Energy (“DOE”) Inspector General Gregory Friedman issued a “Management Alert” concerning allegations of prohibited personnel practices at BPA, including practices that disadvantaged veterans and other applicants, and personnel actions against certain employees who cooperated with the DOE’s Office of Inspector General during its special inquiry of BPA’s personnel practices.

All Federal agencies – including DOE – must use a category rating hiring approach.  The Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) has delegated this authority to DOE, and DOE has delegated the competitive hiring authority to BPA.  In turn, BPA’s Human Capital Management (“HCM”) staff members that are in charge of delegated examining actions must be certified by OPM before they can carry out their examining authority.  In June 2012, the DOE’s Office of Inspector General received a complaint concerning alleged prohibited personnel practices at BPA.  The anonymous complaint detailed violations of OPM regulations, as well as DOE policies concerning veterans’ preference and a category rating system in BPA’s examining authority for competitive hiring.  DOE’s Office of Inspector General sent the complaint to the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (“Human Capital”) and initiated a “special inquiry” in February 2013.

The Management Alert states that, as a preliminary conclusion, BPA has engaged in a number of prohibited practices relating to hiring, and “effectively disadvantaged veterans and other applicants.”  The Inspector General found that in 95 of 146 cases from November 2010 to June 2012, BPA engaged in prohibited practices, such as modifying the best qualified category after applications were received.  Further, the Inspector General found that BPA did not take action to address the impact of its “inappropriate hiring.”  OPM conducted its own review to revoke certification of BPA’s HCM staff members, and DOE’s HCM moved to temporarily suspend BPA’s delegated examining authority and merit promotion authority.

The Inspector General stated that its “primary reason” for issuing the Management Alert was due to allegations of retaliation at BPA in the form of “questionable adverse personnel actions” against HCM staff who cooperated in the OPM or Inspector General review, or raised concerns with BPA management.  Accordingly, the Management Alert recommended that:

  • DOE’s senior leadership intervene to ensure BPA’s employees feel free to report potential wrongdoing;
  • Any ongoing disciplinary actions of HCM staff should be suspended until the DOE Inspector General’s inquiry is complete and final results have been provided to DOE; and
  • Any individuals removed or on administrative leave pending removal should be temporarily restored.

DOE has issued comments on a draft form of the Management Alert, and concurred with the conclusions presented by the Inspector General.

A copy of the Management Alert is available here.