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Campus Notebook: Architect of the Capitol Has Employee Theft Problem

The Architect of the Capitol recovered $394,135 in “stolen government property [and] funds” in the six months ending in March, with much of the theft laid at the hands of AOC employees, according to a report issued by the agency’s inspector general.

Additionally, on May 17, the Capitol Police recovered more than $1,119 in stolen AOC goods from the residence of an unnamed individual. The haul included eight wooden folding tables, one hand cart, two “mop and bucket wringer combos,” five extension cords and one Makita drill.

“The Architect of the Capitol finds these actions deplorable and they are not tolerated,” Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for AOC Stephen Ayers, told Roll Call. “These are instances of poor behavior displayed by a handful of individuals and not a reflection of the great team of AOC employees.”

The inspector general’s semiannual report notes that there could be significant gaps in the divisions responsible for overseeing AOC inventory, particularly that of the Senate office buildings.

These gaps, according to the report, likely contributed to an incident in which an AOC furniture branch employee on the Senate side stole an estimated $13,570 worth of Senate-owned tables and chairs to resell to a used furniture dealer in Virginia.

The employee, who has since resigned, admitted to stealing about three truckloads of furniture from October 2010 to August 2011.

An investigation “revealed a void in written AOC policy on furnishings management, gaps in the inventory management system and a lack of guidance and controls on the disposition of office furnishings in the Senate Office Buildings,” according to the report. “Of particular note, guidance did not state the person responsible to determine furniture’s serviceability, removal and disposition, or destruction. AOC employee knowledge of this internal control deficiency” correlates with the furniture theft, the report concluded.

Because of this deficiency and the initial lack of knowledge that the property was missing, the assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia declined to prosecute.

The inspector general’s report said the office has identified the specific weaknesses in the management of the Senate office building furniture inventory, along with nine recommendations to correct them.

The AOC has indicated that it agrees with the OIG’s recommendations, but it has until the end of the month to formally accept them, according to the report.

Additional thefts described in the report include roughly $18,338 in cleaning supplies from unlocked storage facilities used by AOC contractors to clean the basements in the Senate office buildings.

There was also an incident in which three night-shift employees were allegedly stealing scrap copper. The case was ultimately closed, in part because of “systematic weaknesses” in regulations governing whether employees were allowed to take excess materials for private use.

Regarding what the AOC might do to address these weaknesses and thefts in general, Malecki said there are already mechanisms in place to deal with these kinds of incidents.

“In each instance, the appropriate disciplinary actions were taken to address employee misconduct. There are controls in place, as evidenced, to report those accused of theft and, if found guilty, they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.

Capitol Police Officers Claim Mistreatment Under Leave Act

The Capitol Police union says “all options are on the table” when it comes to seeking remedy for several black officers who are claiming mistreatment under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Such remedies could include filing a formal complaint with the Office of Compliance or requesting that the Congressional Black Caucus intervene.

“The FMLA cases we’re dealing with appear to affect a certain group of individuals within the Capitol Police,” said Chris Ferguson, second vice chairman of the Capitol Police Labor Committee.

A pattern has emerged, he said, regarding how black officers are treated when they request paid leave under the FMLA, the law protecting employees who need to take time off to attend to personal or family-related matters.

Specifically, the officers say they have been denied leave arbitrarily or have been told their paperwork has gone missing or been lost. In many cases, these black officers say similar requests for time off by their white counterparts are processed and approved without incident.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider declined to comment.

Short of an internal resolution, filing a complaint with the Office of Compliance would set in motion the first stages of a lawsuit.

“We’re hoping it can be handled internally and we can stop the department from practicing this type of discrimination,” Ferguson said.

Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Jim Konczos said the union has also put in a request for a meeting with the CBC, whose members could serve as Congressional allies.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the CBC, told Roll Call he was not aware of the request but that he would be open to taking a meeting. He added that he spoke with a group of black officers a year ago to discuss “what they perceived to be a culture that worked against them.”

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