EPA Administrator McCarthy defends statement about firing feds

Monday - 8/11/2014, 1:52pm EDT

By Stephanie Wasko
Special to Federal News Radio

The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is clarifying remarks she made about simplifying the federal firing process.

On July 14, Karen Kellen, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, wrote a letter to EPA challenging a statement McCarthy made before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about making it easier to fire poor-performing employees. Several weeks later, McCarthy replied explaining the context of her statement.

"It is important to understand that I was asked about select cases of egregious and overt employee misconduct, some of which were criminal in nature," McCarthy stated in her letter. "In the context of the most serious and potentially dangerous situations of employee misconduct, I stated at the hearing that I would welcome a more timely process to terminate an employee, while protecting employee rights and maintaining due process."

In her initial letter to the administrator, Kellen put the fault of poor- performance on managers, claiming EPA needed to step away from "country club" politics. Kellen referenced the "man caves" contracts where she said staff carried the blame for malpractice, while higher officials took none.

"Managers should be held to a higher standard because they are our leaders; they create the agenda and make the decisions. At EPA, the buck does not stop at the top; rather, it rolls down onto those least able to defend themselves and with the least say in decisions," she said. "We do not need to make it easier to fire employees. You need to hold your managers and senior staff accountable for their behavior."

Assistant Administrator Craig Hooks first responded to Kellen reinforcing EPA's priority of "eliminating waste, fraud and abuse perpetrated by employees or managers" in a July 24 letter. He agreed that managers as well as lower- ranked employees should have high standards of honesty and integrity. He also said EPA is improving oversight of administrative processes to ensure managers and employees are treated fairly.

"It is in the public interest to ensure that the agency moves swiftly to initiate corrective action against any employee, including managers, found to have engaged in wrongdoing or who have failed to exercise due diligence in oversight," Hooks said.

In addition to clarifying the context of her statement about firing employees, both Hooks and McCarthy expressed their support for AFGE and protecting federal employee rights.

"I want to reaffirm the U.S. EPA's commitment to fostering the type of organization that our dedicated and hardworking employees deserve," McCarthy said..

Stephanie Wasko is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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