NRLB Chief Says Lapses by Flynn Raise Questions of Trust
Two Democratic lawmakers urged Terence Flynn, a Republican on the National Labor Relations Board, to quit after fresh allegations of ethics violations that the agency’s chairman said raised questions “of trust.”
Flynn, while a board employee, gave non-public information including a draft of a board decision to a former member of the agency for personal gain, the inspector general said in a report released yesterday by Representative George Miller of California.
“The inspector general’s findings leave me without confidence in your ability to successfully execute the duties for which you have been appointed,” Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, wrote to Flynn. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, in a separate statement, also called for Flynn’s resignation.
NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce said he takes the allegations against Flynn seriously and is considering a response.
“They raise questions of ethics and trust that go to the heart of the values shared by all of us at the NLRB,” Pearce, a Democrat, said yesterday in an e-mail.
The watchdog’s allegations yesterday and in a March 19 report add to criticism of the board, which mediates disputes between labor and employers. President Barack Obama in January appointed Flynn, a Republican, and two Democrats when the Senate wasn’t in session, bypassing confirmation and triggering legal challenges from Republicans.
‘Looking Into’ Options
Obama has authority to remove board members “for neglect of duty or malfeasance in office,” according to the National Labor Relations Act.
The administration is “looking into” its options, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today.
Without allegations that Flynn leaked documents as a board member, it would be difficult for Obama to dismiss him from the agency, said Charles Craver, a law professor at George Washington University in Washington, offering an interpretation of the labor act. Obama could still argue that Flynn’s denials that he did anything wrong could hurt the NLRB’s credibility.
“His language could affect his current ability to be a board member,” Craver said. “The president could say he is being deceptive now.”
Flynn, while chief counsel to a Republican member, improperly gave a draft of an unpublished board decision and dissents in three cases to Peter Schaumber, his NLRB boss until August 2010.
‘Keep Me Posted’
About a month after Schaumber left, he sent Flynn an e-mail asking to “keep me posted” on board decisions. “Sure,” Flynn responded, 54 minutes later, according to Inspector General David P. Berry. Schaumber, who joined Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential campaign as a labor adviser in September, is no longer listed on the candidate’s website.
In one case in which Flynn distributed a dissent, the NLRB eventually said that a MasTec Inc. (MTZ) unit wrongfully fired employees who appeared on a television news broadcast in work uniforms and were critical of the company’s compensation plan.
In another case highlighted by the inspector general, Flynn notified Schaumber by e-mail of a board decision that stationary banners announcing a labor dispute didn’t violate laws. Flynn sent his e-mail six days before the decision was announced, according to the watchdog report.
“Nothing in Mr. Flynn’s performance standards authorize the release of deliberative information,” Berry said in a memorandum. Issues identified in the two reports “evidence a serious threat to the board’s” decision making, Berry said.
Flynn’s actions weren’t illegal and didn’t have any effect on board decisions, said Barry Coburn, a lawyer for Flynn. There are no statutes that bar sharing information with a former NLRB member, he wrote.
“There is no shred of evidence indicating that any attempt was made to improperly influence any board decision,” he wrote in a letter yesterday to Berry. “Rather, the evidence shows that Mr. Flynn was simply discussing issues of mutual interest with a former close colleague.”
Flynn has said he did nothing improper and rejected an earlier call from the AFL-CIO labor federation to resign.
Harkin, who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that Flynn’s actions “suggest that he lacks both the professional judgment and ethical integrity to continue serving on the board.”
A report on Flynn’s conduct was sent on April 3 to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates violations of laws barring government workers from using their jobs for political activities. Berry cited communications Flynn sent to Schaumber after he became co-chair of Romney’s labor policy group in September and through Nov. 30, according to a letter to the special counsel’s office.
Information also was shared with Peter Kirsanow, a former NLRB member working for the National Association of Manufacturers, Berry said.
Flynn “knew, or should have known, that he had a duty to maintain the confidence of the information that he received in the performance of his official duties,” Berry said in a March 19 memorandum. He “lacked candor” during an interview March 15, Berry said in the March report.
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