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U.S. Office of Special Counsel

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Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


(202) 653-7984      

    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced the favorable settlement of a petition for corrective action that it filed in April with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) against the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Department of Interior, on behalf of James M. Beers, a GS-13 Wildlife Biologist. OSC’s petition had alleged that FWS violated federal personnel regulations when it proposed to fire Mr. Beers for declining to accept a transfer out of the agency’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia to a regional office in Hadley, Massachusetts. As a result of the settlement, Mr. Beers will receive $150,000, restoration and payment of 168 hours of annual leave, payment of his attorney fees, and a letter from FWS apologizing for notifying the Federal Protective Service to bar him from entering his worksite. The agency will also expunge all references to his removal and the building ban from his files.

    In February of 1998, FWS proposed to relocate Mr. Beers to the Hadley regional office purportedly in connection with the transfer of the function that he had been performing at the Arlington Headquarters. Mr. Beers filed a complaint with OSC, alleging that his transfer was illegal and that FWS had proposed to transfer him because he had differed with his superiors over whether to approve a request for grant money that had been filed by the Fund for Animals, a conservation group, and because of his involvement in the negotiation of an international agreement concerning humane trapping standards.

    On April 14, 1998, FWS proposed to remove Mr. Beers from the federal service for failing to accept the proposed transfer. At OSC’s request, FWS initially agreed to delay the removal. On August 24, 1998, however, FWS officials notified Mr. Beers that the removal action would be effective in four days. After OSC notified the Department of Interior that it would seek a formal stay of the removal before the MSPB, FWS agreed not to go forward but to place Mr. Beers instead on paid administrative leave.

    OSC’s investigation concluded that the transfer of Mr. Beers’ position to Hadley, MA. violated federal personnel regulations because the agency had only transferred an insignificant portion of Mr. Beers’ job duties there. OSC concluded that FWS had failed to execute a valid transfer of function. As a result, OSC found, FWS lacked a legal basis for removing Mr. Beers for failure to transfer with his function. 

    After several months of settlement negotiations between the parties failed to produce an agreement, OSC filed its Petition for Corrective Action on behalf of Mr. Beers with the MSPB on April 22, 1999. In the settlement agreement announced today, FWS expressly disavows any fault or wrongdoing in proposing Mr. Beers’ transfer and then his removal. In addition to the monetary and other elements of relief granted Mr. Beers, OSC agreed to dismiss its petition for corrective action in the settlement agreement.

    Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan commended Mr. Beers “for his perseverance and courage in refusing the illegal transfer.” While “OSC stood ready to back Mr. Beers up by seeing his case through litigation,” Kaplan noted, “we appreciate FWS’ ultimate cooperation in concluding a just settlement of the case, which served the interest of all parties by avoiding the expense, effort, and delay of litigation.”