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168 Days: The Investigation

By Ken Snyder

I learned from some veteran's rights websites that the Department of Labor has a means to investigate actions taken against employees that are service members. On 2 September 2010 I filed a complaint against BPU on the Department of Labor's website. In no time at all I had a discussion with an investigator and he started asking questions -- one of the first questions was regarding my employee file and why I had not been sent a copy of it as I had requested. Shortly thereafter, the file came in the mail -- and then the questions really got interesting.

It turns out that there were not two, but three "Employee Evaluations" in my file. Here's where it appears BPU started actively working to terminate me and subsequently cover it up. The first two evaluations (from "March" and April) were there, signed by DeGraeve, Clark and myself as well as date-stamped by BPU's Human Resources Department. However, this third evaluation appears to be a last-minute addition to my file. There are many questionable things regarding this evaluation, and it's accompanying comment sheet, but the most damning thing is it's date: 21 June. I was in Topeka on Air National Guard duty that day -- it was the Monday of my second week of duty.

Here are some errors I found on this third evaluation: you can click here to open a copy of it in a separate window, click here to open a copy of the comment sheet, and click here to open a page for the numbered annotations in red.

It appears this was done either by someone in haste, or by someone with no experience in writing employee evaluations:

  1. The previous evaluations are handwritten, but this one is typed -- was that a way to conceal just who was responsible for it?
  2. "Evaluating Officer" at the top of the page is listed as Clark, "Reviewing Supervisor" is listed as DeGraeve. However, Clark signs the bottom of the form as the "Reviewing Supervisor."
  3. "Check One" box (Probation, Semi-Annual, Annual, Other) should be checked as "Probation" -- not checked.
  4. No one but Clark signs the evaluation. Though the comments (additional sheet) appear to be comments made by DeGraeve his signature (or even initials) are not anywhere on either of the papers.
  5. While the comment sheet for the 26 March evaluation mentions me as "Ken", this evaluation and it's comment sheet always refer to me as "Mr. Snyder" -- the way Clark always referred to me.
  6. The crux of this entire evaluation is an incident that took place on 28 May. If this incident was of such consequence why did the parties involved wait until 21 June to write such a damning evaluation, and then wait until 8 July to act upon it?
  7. While the other two evaluations are dated 26 March and 27 April, this evaluation is dated 21 June -- exactly five months from the date of hire, and nearly a week earlier than the other two evaluations in regard to time of the month.
  8. At no time was a copy provided to me before it showed up as part of the BPU employee file -- the other two evaluations (27 April and 26 March) were shown to me as they were submitted.
  9. The other two evaluations show date stamps by Human Resources as to when they are received (for submission to the employee file?) but there is no date stamp on this one.
  10. The other two evaluations show Clark signed them both on the same day (3 May 2010) -- the same day they are received by Human Resources (date stamp). This date is four working days after the April evaluation meeting (which Clark attended). However, this evaluation was signed the same day as it is dated -- again, no actual evaluation meeting took place, as I was on ANG duty at the time.
  11. To do a little forensic analysis on these two papers: this evaluation does not appear to have been incorporated into the file as of the day it was packaged to be sent to the Department of Labor investigator and me. Although this had supposedly been filed on 21 June and I was terminated on 8 July these two papers (evaluation and comment sheet) are not punched as are all the other papers in the file as of September 23 (date on cover letter from DeLeon). You can tell from their file that the comment sheet from the 26 March evaluation was stapled to the actual evaluation form, but the 21 June comment sheet was not stapled to it's actual evaluation form.
  12. While this evaluation (at face value only, with no contradictory evidence presented) would indicate sub-par performance, no mention of action (reprimand, additional training, termination) is listed.

A Comment is made on the accompanying sheet regarding the 28 May incident (read about it here) and to read the comment you'd think I openly defied DeGraeve, when in fact all I probably did was flinch when my cell phone rang. It's not as if no other technician had ever received a phone call while working -- I saw it happen all the time. We even called each other; using our cell phones was a way to keep non-essential communication off the radios and also a way to keep from tying up the radios in certain situations. There were even comments made when Sisson would step out of the room (during morning meetings to take a call) as to just who he was talking to.

According to the last evaluation I'm about the worst person that BPU has ever hired, flat "unsatisfactory" reviews all across the board. Never mind that less than two months earlier (and note: there was no May evaluation) I had an evaluation that said "has improved" in the areas I was initially listed as "unsatisfactory" on the (supposedly) March evaluation. All of this was relayed to the Labor Department investigator, and he posed these questions to BPU's lawyers, who by this time had taken over handling this case from DeLeon and BPU's HR department.

Because of the lawyers taking over, the investigator gave them a time extension to respond to his questions. I found this rather puzzling, as they were alerted to the fact that I was fired by 1) DeLeon when he sent them a copy of the letter he sent notifying me I was fired, and 2) receiving a copy of the second letter I sent to DeLeon requesting a copy of my personnel file, which also had a copy of my first letter attached to it. When the lawyer for BPU talked to the investigator he sent him a letter outlining their conversation and sent me a copy of it as well. Now (according to the investigator's letter) the lawyer says I "refused to obey orders" on top of the other charges. When did this happen, and why isn't it listed on any of the evaluation forms? I can see this is being built up from the inside to far greater proportions than it ever was while I was there.


Next: The Waiting
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The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.