Today,the National Association Of Postmasters Of The United States (NAPUS), The League Of Postmasters (NLPM), Mark Strong, Robert Rapoza, Retired Postmasters Marilyn Shaw and Marilyn Hill filed a complaint with PRC requesting a temporary hold on USPS post office closings.
Postmasters request a ruling that the Postal Service must obtain an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission before “closing thousands of post offices, affecting nationwide postal service, and before abdicating its responsibility to serve communities through maintaining its nationwide network of rural post offices as local federal government offices.”
Here are excerpts from the complaint:
The Postal Service released the Proposed Rules, “Post Office Organization and Administration: Establishment, Classification and Discontinuance,” 39 CFR Part 241 on March 31, 2011, and provided notice of the Proposed Rules in the Federal Register, 76 Fed. Reg.17794. The Complainants believe that the Proposed Rules are in conflict with applicable law. First, the rules effectively remove one of the grounds available to communities and the public to seek review of consolidation actions at the Postal Regulatory Commission.
Second, they remove an essential element from the core definition of “post office.”
Third, the rules counter the congressional intent in creating an appeal process and in mandating service “to all communities” and a “maximum degree” of service “to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self sustaining.” 39 U.S.C. § 101(a), (b). In addition, it appears that the drive for extensive nationwide closings of small post offices—that this proposal is designed to facilitate— is beginning and requires an application under § 3661 (which the Postal Service has not made) to the Commission for an advisory opinion on whether such change is in the public interest.
In sum, Complainants believe the Postal Service lacks the authority to entertain the regulatory elimination of a statutory provision, to alter the jurisdiction of the Postal Regulatory Commission, or to begin a nationwide change in service without seeking an advisory opinion from the Commission.
Consultation Under Section 1004.
The Postal Service provided public notice of its Proposed Rule on March 31,2011, and requested comments. Subsequently, the Postal Service forwarded this change to the Postmasters on April 6, 2011. The Complainants note that the language of 39 U.S.C. §1004 suggests that the Postal Service must provide a description of the proposed rule to NAPUS and The League of Postmasters so that the organizations have an opportunity to participate in the planning and development of the proposed rule.
The purpose of §1004 is to allow the postmaster organization to participate in the planning and development of a rule, which would suggest that notice should be given before the proposed rule is actually provided to the public so that discussions as to planning and development issues, including the wisdom and legality of the matter, could occur. Instead, the Postal Service provided notice of the rule with language suggesting that the decision had already been made, and that participation or consultation from NAPUS and The League of Postmasters was entirely optional but that the Complainants were welcome to submit questions.
Under its Proposed Rule, the Postal Service is creating a process to avoid the statutory right of appeal for a post office consolidation to the Postal Regulatory Commission which Congress created under §404(d)(5), by simply “converting” a post office into “another type of USPS-operated retail facility.” Proposed 39 C.F.R. § 241.3(a)(1)(iii), 76 Fed. Reg. 17797. Since this “is not a discontinuance,” and “would no longer constitute a „consolidation‟,” the public, including the Complainants, would have no right to appeal what the Postal Service no longer deems to be an event of regulatory, statutory, or community significance. This “death by definition” is not consistent with Congress‟ express intent in establishing a right of review for the consolidation of post offices.
The proposed regulation would authorize an inferior level of service to small towns and rural America, in violation of §§101(b) and 404(2)(A)(iii). The proposed regulation promotes a facility standard that would lead to second-rate services to countless communities, particularly those situated in rural areas and small towns. Under the proposed regulations, the Postal Service would maintain post offices that are deemed by the agency as:
… necessary to ensure regular and effective postal services are available to all customers within specified geographic borders.
That is far less than the “maximum degree of effective and regular service” standard that is found in §101(b) of Title 39
The Complainants express their concern that if the Proposed Rules are implemented, the Postal Service may begin implementing changes that harm Complainants and others similarly situated as well as the residents of those communities which will have their post offices lose their local focus as they are consolidated with other post offices and lose the responsibility, accountability, and transparency provided by local management. This includes but is not limited to: (1) converting post offices to, or replacing post offices with, stations or branches without public notice or evaluating the effect of the change upon local communities as required by 39 U.S.C. §404(d); and (2) changing the management of post offices, removing trained postmasters and managing post offices utilizing other, subordinate USPS employees in violation of 39 U.S.C. §1004(i)(3).