Union Boss Sent Cisneros ‘Hit List’ Of HUD Employees
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The week President Clinton took office, the head of a federal employees union sent Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros a list of agency workers the group claimed were anti-union, racist or aligned with Republicans.
These workers, most of them career senior managers, could pose a ``blocking mechanism″ to the new administration’s policies, warned the report from American Federation of Government Employees president John N. Sturdivant.
Since then, all but two of the 13 Housing and Urban Development employees on the AFGE list have been reassigned, given fewer responsibilities or left the agency, according to HUD officials. The union list was obtained by The Associated Press.
The agency said it did not solicit the list or use it improperly, and said any personnel changes were a coincidental result of efforts to make the agency smaller and more efficient. No one’s pay was cut.
``We pride ourselves on being fair, and we just do not operate in the manner that would concur with any of this,″ said Frank D. Wing, a senior adviser to Cisneros who received the report and wrote Sturdivant a ``thank you″ letter.
``As far as I’m concerned, there has not been an adverse action taken against any one on this list,″ Wing said.
``I can go down that list and tell you, the ones that we’ve had anything to do with, I think they’re highly professional and they’ve done their job,″ he said.
In an interview this week, Sturdivant defended the list, saying it was ``part of working with the administration that we helped elect.″
In interviews, some workers on the list say they experienced difficulties with the Clinton administration but were unaware of the AFGE report and now wonder whether it may have played a role.
Eleven of those on the list were career workers who by law are supposed to be free from political pressures. Nearly all the job changes occurred in the first 20 months of the Clinton administration.
``Accepting a `hit list’ from the union is poor management, shows poor judgment, and in my opinion is unethical,″ said Walter G. Sevier, a now-retired HUD official who was described in the list as a ``reported racist and anti-union″ manager.
Internal HUD records show that in 1993, Sevier’s Fort Worth, Texas, office, which he headed for more than a decade, had the highest percentage of minority workers among regional offices.
Sevier said he quit last year rather than accept HUD’s offer of a transfer to Newark, N.J., after his own job in Texas was eliminated.
The AFGE report called former Federal Housing Administration comptroller Eleanor M. Clark a ``reputed personal friend of George Bush.″ Clark called that ``false and defamatory″ and might help to explain the ``frustrations″ she experienced with the Clinton administration before she took a retirement buyout offer.
``I am not a personal friend of former President George Bush. ... I have never even met him,″ said Clark, who worked for the government for 22 years in career positions.
She condemned the list as full of `` unsupportable, unsavory and indeed vicious personal attacks.″
Among other career workers on the list: A former Washington manager was transferred to Florida, then retired; a deputy assistant secretary for administration has been made an adviser to the lead paint abatement program, and an office director is awaiting reassignment after his division was eliminated.
One worker, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said that while his pay remained the same he has been given less authority and autonomy.
``I’ve been moved out of a position of responsibility, and now I just sit here all day,″ said the worker. ``I’ve worked for HUD for years, and now, suddenly, I’m worthless.″
Sturdivant sent the list to Cisneros on Jan. 26, 1993, with a cover letter that said he wanted to ``help undo some of the harm″ he alleged was visited on the agency during the Reagan and Bush administrations.
His report charged that a flurry of last-minute Bush administration promotions had placed GOP loyalists in nonpolitical jobs ``high enough to afford a blocking mechanism to the policies of the incoming administration.″
It did not recommend any specific action against the workers. But it listed employees it alleged were Bush political appointees who had tried to ``burrow in″ to career jobs. Others were placed under the heading ``management employees showing reckless disregard for employee well-being and rights.″
``Several career management officials have become identified with anti-union sentiment or have been especially neglectful of their duties″ under federal labor laws, the report charged.
Wing wrote Sturdivant back on Feb. 12, 1993, thanking him for the ``letter of introduction to Secretary Cisneros and the accompanying confidential report prepared by your organization.″
Wing’s letter did not promise any action, noting rather that the government had its own review of some of the issues raised in the AFGE report. ``Any instance of impropriety discovered by this administration will be dealt with appropriately,″ he wrote.
Sturdivant said the information about workers on the list came from the union’s local bargaining units and he did not check it for accuracy before sending it along.
``We wanted to identify to them people we thought would probably be in the business of trying to thwart their agenda,″ Sturdivant said. ``We sent them along with the understanding that whoever was making the decisions would take them for what it’s worth.″