Uncivil Rites

Intrigue, inaction and personnel disputes have one federal agency at war with itself. Can't we all just get along?

"HISPAC has complained to the president, Congress--everybody. Officials in my Washington office, over several administrations. They have come and they have investigated. Do you think Vada Kyle-Holmes would be sitting here if any of those people thought she had done anything wrong? If they had one reason to remove me, don't you think they would have?"

Yet the saga of the OCR's uncivil wars would seem to address precisely that point--the virtual impossibility of getting rid of anybody once he or she has put on the armor of the federal government's civil-service procedures. Kyle-Holmes's enemies regard her as so firmly entrenched, after nearly thirty years in the system, as to be nearly untouchable; but so are many of her foes.

Collect every scrap of paper generated by the uncivil wars--every grievance and EEOC complaint, every letter of reprimand issued and then withdrawn, every ruling and appeal, every settlement agreement and clarification--and you would have a paper trail stretching from the lobby to the fourteenth floor, a pile of woe far in excess of the total labor-relations problems at federal agencies many times larger than the OCR.

You would also have an exhaustive study in futility. Despite all the time and expense devoted to investigating various staffers' alleged misbehavior and various officials' alleged retaliation, despite the seriousness of many of the accusations tossed about, little has changed. There's been a singular lack of consequences for almost everyone involved.

One employee noted as much during a recent visit to the Denver office by the OCR's new national director, David Garrison. Garrison told the troops he was eager to move on, the employee says, and dismissed the office's troubled record of personnel disputes as so much ancient history.

"How could he say that?" the employee asks. "This stuff has been ongoing. This history is continuing if you don't do something about it.

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