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Industry Insight

Boarman Nomination for Public Printer: Another Issue Emerges?

In my ongoing follow-

By Cary Sherburne
Published: July 11, 2010

In my ongoing follow-up on the Boarman nomination for U.S. Public Printer in an effort to keep the printing industry informed, I notice that the transcript of his testimony has finally been posted on the web site for the Senate Rules Committee.

Meanwhile, another issue has emerged.  I received a copy of a letter Boarman wrote to William Boesch, Comptroller at the GPO, wherein he states that he received a check in the mail earlier this year from the GPO for $175, which he deposited into his account, saying, “I assumed it was a payment from GPO for the balance of my accumulated leave that I had tried to cash out a few years ago.”

In the letter, dated June 23, 2010, he further states: “On June 23, 2010, I was informed by GPO’s Acting General Counsel that this was a payment made under GPO’s ‘goal sharing’ program.  I was further told that under GPO regulations, employees must work at least 500 hours per year to be eligible … a requirement which should have precluded me from being sent such a payment.”

I contacted both the GPO’s PR office (who responded that the GPO cannot comment on personnel matters) and the office of the Inspector General, under whose supervision the audit that uncovered this payment was conducted.  In a return call, Alberto Rivera-Fournier, Counsel to the Inspector General, very politely informed me that I needed to speak to the Agency’s PR department, which, of course, I had already done with the result as noted.

Here’s the issue:  If you read the transcript of Boarman’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee and/or his bio, you will learn that he worked at the GPO from 1974 to 1977 and was put in a leave of absence status when he left the agency 33 years ago. Is he still an employee?  Do you think this payment just randomly showed up 33 years later without any previous payments having been received?  Had he received previous payments and returned them?  If so, why wouldn’t he have been taken off the roll of employees eligible for goal sharing long ago? None of this is clear.

My investigation revealed that payments for the goal sharing program and for other situations such as snow days or emergency days when employees cannot, or are instructed not to, come to work are paid outside of the normal payroll process.  Over 33 years, such payments could amount to a relatively significant amount.  However, regardless of the total amount received, there is a potential ethics situation here.  If the auditor uncovered one payment in 2010—33 years after Mr. Boarman left active GPO employment—shouldn’t he or she have dug a little deeper to ascertain what other payments may or may not have been received “in error” over those 33 years and what their disposition was?  Perhaps that was done, but since I have been unable to get a definitive response from the GPO, I don’t know. But it seems highly unlikely that only one payment would have been made, and that fully 33 years after Mr. Boarman left active employment.

Meanwhile, I forwarded a copy of the letter to Senator Warner of Virginia, who conducted the confirmation hearing in committee, as well as selected other senators and the White House Press Office.  The Senate reconvenes from recess on July 12.  I have informally heard that the nomination is “out of committee,” which means it could come up for a vote before the full Senate at any time.

Again, I have no personal feeling one way or another about Mr. Boarman.  I have not met him, nor have I interviewed him (it would probably be inappropriate for him to speak to the press during the confirmation process, anyway).  But I simply can’t let an issue like this go by without raising a red flag and suggesting that there be further investigation.

It is my hope that the Senate will look into this before deciding whether or not to confirm the nomination.  It is also my hope that the Inspector General will be inspired to conduct a more in-depth audit into this situation that could clear Mr. Boarman of any shadow of suspicion before he takes on this role which is an important leadership role in the printing industry—or not.  If there is an issue, it should surely be taken into consideration and resolved before the confirmation process is completed.

The Inspector General of the GPO is not shy about prosecuting GPO employees for malfeasance.  In 2006, for example, two employees were sentenced to jail for stealing and reselling printer ink cartridges from the GPO General Self-Service Store. An investigation into potential Boarman payments received and retained in error would certainly seem to be in line with past practices and the responsibility of the Inspector General’s office. And our elected representatives in the Senate should also be looking for answers before making such an important decision.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.

 

Discussion

By digital3399 on Jul 12, 2010

This is very interesting news for the printing industry. I find it troubling a person selected by President Obama to run an agency, and who will be a major influence in our industry, did not pick up the phone and ask why he got a check for $175. One would think a CEO would have better judgment.
The way I read this story is a GPO investigation uncovered this information and let Mr. Boarman know? I am curious also if there have been previous checks sent to him that he cashed since he left GPO 30 years ago? After reading his testimony he also seemed to forget he made a campaign contribution. Something sure smells funny here. I hope for the sake of our industry those politicians in Washington get to the bottom of this issue. Our industry is struggling as it is and we need a strong leader to help in this transition we are encountering.

 

By Cary Sherburne on Jul 13, 2010

In the process of trying to get more information, I have contacted a variety of sources, including various Senators, the White House press office, and the Washington Post. So far, no response from any of them. I am now in the process of trying to find out whether the nomination is still in committee or out ... and if out, when it might be heard by the full Senate.

You are correct in pointing out that this is perhaps not all that dissimilar to the campaign contribution situation, which I wrote about earlier here on Print CEO and which prompted Mr. Boarman to explain that in the hearing.

 

By carl gerhardt on Jul 13, 2010

This demands full investigation. This seems typical of too many Oboma appointments. All have very liberal, even activist agendas. I suggest a write your congressman campaign be started. Also, I suggest this information be forwarded to Fox News Channel. They are about the only media organization willing to publish information like this. The main line media networks won't touch it.
We certainly need a strong advocate that understands our industry made up by mostly small non union business owners. This guy not only does not have resume to support the industry he also may have some really bit skeletons in his closet.

 

By Edwin Hawse on Jul 14, 2010

GPO has a history of inappropriately paying former and ineligible employees under their Goal Sharing Program. Mr. Boarman is simply one of many victims of the continued mismanagement of this employee program at GPO.

Each year, GPO's Human Capital organization prepares an employee payment list for the Goal Sharing Program and afterwards the GPO's Finance & Administration organization certifies the list as proper for payment by the USDA's National Finance Center (NFC), in New Orleans. NFC provides payroll services to GPO. The actual checks to GPO employees are issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury which issues checks for the IRS, the Social Security Administration, VA, OPM and most other Federal Agencies.

I have personal knowledge of this recurring problem at GPO; I was a GPO Financial Manager until I retired in October 2008. After retirement, I was mailed a Goal Sharing check when I was ineligible. I was told by the GPO Comptroller that other former employees were inappropriately mailed checks too.

Don't blame Mr. Boarman for not knowing why an "unexplained" U.S. Treasury for $175 arrived in his mailbox. Communications are poor. Retired and former GPO employees generally receive benefit and other checks without explanation after separation; some of the checks are simply late.

By law, the party responsible for this error is the GPO Certifying Official that authorized this and other inappropriate payments under the Goal Sharing Program. All Certifying Officers are appointed by the Public Printer of the United States (44 USC 309). The current Public Printer is Robert Tapella who would be replaced by Mr. Boarman after confirmation by the Senate.

Finally, I am still waiting for the GPO OIG’s report explaining why the foreign contract supplier to GPO for e-passport computer chips was incorrectly paid about $3 million when only about $600,000 was billed and due. Fortunately for GPO, the contractor detected the $2.4 million over-payment and returned the monies to GPO, in their good old time, about 4 months later.

 

By Jim on Jul 15, 2010

Must've been a slow news day for this to get a whopping 10 paragraphs. Maybe it was a signing bonus. And if one is to comment, please check your spelling. While you may not like our current president, he at least should get the dignity of having his named spelled correctly. I'll wait anxiously for the "Boarman-gate" update!

 

By GPO Employee on Jul 15, 2010

Hold the boat on this one...just ask ANY GPO employee, particularly those on negotiated wage pay systems, about the GPO payroll and financial management. They are far from perfect insofar as payroll errors (yes, even ones that can take an extraordinarily long time to correct). It certainly hasn't helped since the payroll department and its duties had been partially outsourced to NFC, the additional red tape and communication alone or lack thereof can drive anyone into a frenzy. All I am saying is look at ALL points. I hardly think a mere $175 is anything "shady", give people some credit here.

 

By Chuck on Jul 16, 2010

This is great, another example of incompetence and waste at best and possible corruption at worst. Furthermore in an activity that at this point, the government shouldn't even be doing. Why does the GPO even exist? It's an institution with a great history that should now shut down its operations and/or operate a skeleton crew to outsource any actual printing that happens. And its digital operations seem to be completely old fashioned and useless, too, they should move into business units of the gov and be accomplished with modern technologies as part of day to day operations in those units. AND, I might add, the absolute wrong person to run the GPO, if we really do want there to be change in government, is a bureaucrat who worked there 30 years ago. It's disgusting.

 

By George E. Lord on Oct 04, 2010

The process,once again, is when and if the government makes an over-payment to anyone whether its is through a tax return or to a federal employee in their paycheck, they (the government) notifies the individual of the over-payment and makes arrangements for repayment. Plain and simple. The fact of the matter, there is not a payday that goes by there isnt an over-payment or a shortage in one's check at the GPO since we have switched our payroll functions to the National Finance Center. Apparently, the new system is that we pay everyone the full amount of their gross pay or goalsharing check whether truly eligible or not and then when and if the Chief Financial Officer certifies the transactions or when the "books" get reconciled ...... the corrections and/or repayment takes place (I hope). Oh, by the way, this system was implemented by the best and brightest from the private sector with total disregard of their responsibilities and obligations as agency officials. Their problem and ours is that everytime we see the best and brightest come to Washington to reduce government no matter what..... they end up costing the government more money. This is because the mentality is that law and regulations are obstacles instead of right and wrong so the end result is people are being paid for something they are not entitled to receive. The true irony is the very same financial officer was rewarded for his outstanding performance through our performance award system and received additional pay retention bonus because he is so valuable to the organization we cannot afford to lose him. I say we cannot afford to keep him. Imagine, there is a shortage of CPAs and Chief Financial Officers in this country. He made more than the Public Printer for several years now. Welcome to the private sector where CEOs, CFO's can drive a company into the ground and still earn thousands of dollars in awards. WOW, only in America.

 

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