U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES FAVORABLE
SETTLEMENT OF COMPLAINT ALLEGING ILLEGAL DISMISSAL OF WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST BY
FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 6/2/99
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
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
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.”