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.