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Campus Notebook: Capitol Police Files Motion to Dismiss Retaliation Lawsuit

The Capitol Police department is seeking to dismiss a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by an officer formerly assigned to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s protective detail.

Luanne Moran alleges in her September 2009 lawsuit that she was falsely reprimanded while on the California Democrat’s protective detail in retaliation for sexual harassment complaints that she levied against her supervisor.

But the department’s motion to dismiss, filed Monday, states that paid administrative leave and recommended firing are not severe enough punishments to constitute retaliation. Citing Supreme Court precedent, the department’s lawyers claim actual loss of pay or employment would be needed to make that claim.

Moran “has not suffered an adverse employment action as defined by this court because she has not had an action that has had materially adverse consequences affecting the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” the motion states.

The Capitol Police does not comment on pending litigation.

Moran’s lawyer, John Mahoney, contended that the department’s lawyers erred because the Supreme Court has since “broadened employer liability in retaliation cases to include any personnel action that might dissuade an employee from filing a complaint.”

“The agency misconstrues the applicable Supreme Court precedent,” Mahoney said. “That’s just wrong both legally and factually.”

Mahoney added that Moran and the Capitol Police were in settlement discussions before this motion was filed, but he didn’t know whether the filing meant those settlements talks had broken down.

“It came out of nowhere,” he said.

GAO Plans Reductions

The Government Accountability Office will be able to skirt layoffs and carry out its expanded responsibilities through 2012 if funding stays flat, according to an agency report.

A spending bill passed by the House before the end of the 111th Congress would have increased the agency’s funding by $1.5 million to accommodate its expanded workload in auditing the Federal Reserve, which is mandated by the financial regulatory reform act signed by the president last year. But the Senate never took up the issue.

So GAO funding stayed flat at fiscal 2010 levels, and that’s where the agency anticipates it will stay at least through 2012. The agency is seeking slightly more than $556 million to maintain the 3,220 full-time workers that it employs.

But flat funding is a best-case scenario, given all the Congressional chatter over cutting agency budgets, GAO union President Ronald La Due Lake said.

“Our sense is that the demand for our work in helping the Congress conduct oversight is probably not shrinking. It’s very challenging if the budget either flatlines or shrinks,” he said. “It would be appropriate that we received increases in our funding commensurate with our increased workload.”

The GAO report noted that the agency has begun cutting back on hiring and is planning “significant reductions” moving forward, but that it’s only a temporary solution. “While operating at this funding level with no increase poses challenges, GAO is committed to reducing our own costs as much as possible in order to absorb the additional demands and increasing costs of the coming year without additional resources,” spokesman Charles Young said. “Achieving that balance in the year ahead will be difficult given the steps GAO will likely have to take in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to reduce programs, including travel, training, security upgrades and contract support.”

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