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168 Days: End Game?

By Ken Snyder

In November 2009 I knew that 2010 would have tremendous impact on my life -- but I never thought it would be in the manner it has been. After returning from a deployment with the Kansas Air National Guard I left the commercial aircraft repair business and joined the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. We've been interacting since I bought my first house in Kansas City, Kansas in December of 1986; and being a lifelong resident (save the years I spent in the Marine Corps) I knew of the BPU as far back as I can remember.

Joining the BPU was pretty damn close to a dream job: close to home, no longer having to pay Missouri taxes and live in Kansas, a field I was interested in -- electrical systems. Most of all, I had competent co-workers that I thought I could feel at ease around. I was made to feel at home, and I came in giving full trust and confidence to my co-workers and supervisors. But all that changed.

Completely unaware to me, parties at BPU had decided I was not wanted. The signs were there, but I didn't put "two and two together" until after the fact. Being asked about "how they needed to handle my National Guard time off" should have sounded an alarm, but I passed it off as a new supervisor learning his job. Comments about one co-worker's son not being selected to a military academy and how a former foreman thought one worker was better than the rest of them due to his military service were dismissed as water under the bridge. Maybe they didn't like it when I stopped by in uniform while on military duty to let them know I missed being there, I don't know. But nevertheless, eight working days after returning from military duty I was told my supervisor wanted to see me. When we met, I was escorted into a room and summarily told I was fired -- without one single piece of factual evidence presented for me to rebut. Ironically enough I wore a shirt from the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States to work that day.

Never in my entire life have I been made to feel so humiliated -- like a common criminal. In the days following, I found it hard to trust just about anyone. Day after day I tried to make sense of what had happened, and the more I searched for answers the clearer the picture got: I was not fired for cause. New traffic control cabinets were assembled, tested and prepared for installation; drawings were updated and modified to reflect actual conditions. Existing equipment was tested, adjusted and repaired. Problems were solved. Time after time I was told my work was good, at times better than some others. Why then was I "sent home"?

Sometime in the future BPU will install the new signal cabinets that I assembled and tested at intersections along Washington Boulevard. I have no doubt they will work as designed right out of the box. Someone will (if they haven't already) use the cables I built, operate the camera adjustment module in accordance with the instructions I made for it, read the "as built" blueprint I updated in order to find out where the cables are routed at 10th & Washington Boulevard, and have no problems whatsoever. But I won't know a thing about it, the door closed behind me and the "closed society" will carry on as it always has.
K. W. Snyder, 18 January 2011

Final Word From DOL
Ironically, BPU posted two additional Traffic Signal Technician openings in February 2011. When I read the requirements, I was able to list specific locations and times I performed every one of the requirements. This led me to retrace the investigation to this point and have several unanswered questions. Since I did not hear many specifics in the meeting with the DOL investigators on 7 January I decided to send the investigator another letter asking for clarifications regarding how things seemingly changed between 8 November 2010 and 7 January 2011. There were even questions he asked of the BPU attorney I had not heard an answer to, and wanted to know what he found. Click here for a copy of the letter.

His response is just about as vague as it can get. While he was not willing to answer any specific questions regarding the investigation, I am expected to accept that this "was not in violation of USERRA" and "focus on a more positive future"? Sorry, it's going to take a lot more than that response to convince me.


Next: Ethics, Part 2
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The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.