Letter Carrier fired for “improper conduct/providing confidential information to a postal customer of a government matter/interference in a criminal investigation.”
Robert W. Holdsworth appeals from a final decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board , affirming a decision of the United States Postal Service to remove Holdsworth from his position as a letter carrier.
Holdsworth served as a letter carrier for the USPS for twenty-two years. In August or September 2008, Inspector Teresa Ryan from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service advised Holdsworth that USPIS would be conducting a “mail cover” in connection with a criminal mail fraud investigation. A “mail cover” is “the process by which a nonconsensual record is made of any data appearing on the outside cover of any sealed or unsealed class of mail matter . . . to obtain information for [inter alia]: . . . [o]btaining evidence of commission or attempted commission of a crime.” USPS Intranet, Administrative Support Manual, 213 Mail Covers. On December 17, 2008, the USPIS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Health and Human Services executed search warrants on the targets of the mail cover. Contrary to the inspectors’ expectations, the targets were not surprised by the inspection, but rather were already on notice of the investigation because, they said, their letter carrier had informed them that the authorities were watching their mail. After conducting an investigation, on October 1, 2009, the Agency issued a notice of Holdsworth’s proposed removal based on the stated charge of “improper conduct/providing confidential information to a postal customer of a government matter/interference in a criminal investigation.”
Four days following notice of his proposed removal, on October 5, 2009, Holdsworth engaged in activity forming the basis for a second charge against him in an amended removal notice: “charge #2 – improper conduct – inappropriate conduct towards a postal customer.” This charge stems from Holdsworth’s alleged use of profanity to several members of a family on his route, following what Holdsworth believed was one of the family member’s improper handling of mail addressed to others. In a notice dated October 8, 2009, the Agency informed Holdsworth that he was being placed on emergency off-duty status. On October 13, 2009, the Agency issued the amended removal notice, adding the second charge described above.
On December 3, 2009, the Agency’s deciding official, Steven Ulrich, issued a letter of decision concluding—based on the factors listed in Douglas v. Veterans Administration, 5 M.S.P.R. 280 (1981) (“Douglas factors”)—that the penalty of removal was warranted. On February 5, 2010, an arbitrator conducted a hearing in accordance with the National Association of Letter Carriers’ (“Union”) agreement, to investigate whether there was just cause for the Agency’s notices of October 1, 8, and 13. The Arbitrator considered the Union’s arguments and concluded that the Agency’s emergency off-duty placement and removal of Holdsworth were justified. U.S. Postal Serv. v. Nat’l Assoc. of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO, No. C06N-4C-D 10008189 157-128-1000-20009 at 12 (Mar. 7, 2010) (Brown, Arb.) (“Arbitration Decision”).
This court has thoroughly considered Holdsworth’s remaining arguments and concludes that they lack merit
Court of Appeals Upholds Removal of Letter Carrier Disclosing ‘Mail Cover’ Investigation