House Republican seeks IG probe of CFPB 'patronage' moves under Biden
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A Republican House member is seeking a probe of the Biden administration’s push for a "patronage system" at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by ousting career employees in order to install their own top staff.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, asked Mark Bialek, inspector general of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the CFPB, to launch an investigation into the matter.
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Hice said the CFPB "seems to be trying to create a patronage system by reportedly targeting career employees who served under President Trump."
The CFPB has denied a report by Government Executive, a news outlet covering the public sector workforce, that the Biden administration has targeted at least six top senior-level career employees in order to install their own staff. Targeting reportedly included incentives for early retirement to sidelining one employee by launching an investigation.
Hice believes the matter should be probed.
"It seems they believe any career civil servant who worked under President Trump at CFPB must be replaced with hires selected by Biden administration officials," the Georgia lawmaker and ranking member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations said. "The federal government is not a patronage system. It is supposed to be merit-based. The inspector general must launch an investigation to stop this abuse."
The federal government’s civil service law walls off political appointees – who serve at the pleasure of the president – from career employees who can only be removed for cause. Some version of this system has been in place since the 19th century.
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House Republicans on the oversight committee have previously sought explanations on unusual Biden administration personnel matters. In May, they sought answers as to why the White House Office of Science and Technology removed Betsy Weatherhead as the director of the National Climate Assessment. Weatherhead was a career civil service employee named to the position during the Trump administration.
President Joe Biden was vice president in 2010 when President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill that created the CFPB as a watchdog for the financial industry.
CFPB spokesperson Michael Robinson said the Government Executive report was inaccurate.
"The CFPB takes its responsibilities as a federal employer seriously and complies with all applicable laws concerning federal personnel," Robinson told Fox News in an email. "The CFPB values and upholds the merit systems principles that undergird the fair treatment of career civil service employees."
The CFPB will cooperate fully with any requests from the inspector general, Robinson said.
"We cannot speak to any specific investigation, but more generally, agencies have an obligation to investigate after receiving complaints from staff about serious management misconduct," Robinson said. "The CFPB takes such allegations seriously. Such an investigation would be directed by civil service employees, in line with what any other federal agency would do."
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Government Executive reported the CFPB has used hard ball and softball tactics. This included early retirement to allow non-Biden administration hired employees to access their pension. Also, the bureau launched an internal investigation into another employee who was placed on paid administrative leave.
The report stated: "Multiple individuals with knowledge of the events described the probe as frivolous and intended only to push the employee aside. The impacted employees are mostly in the position of associate director and members of the Senior Executive Service, the top ranking level for career federal workers."
"It’s accurate to say there has been a push to get rid of top career people there," Government Executive quoted an unnamed longtime federal employee as saying. "I don’t think it’s a coincidence."
Another anonymous employee was quoted as saying, "I voted for Biden and I’m getting ousted because I was hired by the previous people. It’s not my fault."
In his letter to the inspector general, Hice noted Democrats accused Trump of trying to attack the civil service system.
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"According to a recent press report, CFPB has ‘offered separation incentives including early retirement and launched investigations into career senior executives to sideline them, targeting about a half-dozen of the highest-ranked non-political staffers at the bureau,’" the letter says.
"After the baseless rhetoric regarding President Trump’s supposed efforts to create a patronage system and to damage the federal workforce, this stands out as a monument to hypocrisy," Hice's letter continued. "Purging career employees who happened to serve under a previous administration specifically because they served under the previous administration could not be more counter to merit-system protection principles."
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