Your comments in the November issue of “Inside ATF” must be addressed because the ideal does not match the real. We expected more of you than this type of demeaning “instruction” to us.
ATF Agents have repeatedly sought constructive methods of direct and indirect communications with you and your staff, only to be ignored nationwide. CleanupATF.org is a direct result of ongoing dismissive and retaliatory conduct by your managers. We have asked...formally, informally and ultimately, forcefully.
We have made every attempt to be heard and avert confrontation. However, you, Ronnie, Billy and a vast majority of the GS-15s under your watch have shown nothing but arrogance and disregard. Nationwide, respect for ATF leadership is at an all-time low. It must be earned back. Actions speak louder than words and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Your instruction to "keep the lines of communication open" requires you and Headquarters to act decisively in good faith, because it is you that have betrayed our trust and confidence, not the other way around. Lines of communication can’t be kept open until and unless they are open in the first place.
You "don’t know what’s on our minds unless we tell you"? Seriously Mr. Melson, did you write this? Please read the documents posted on this website and review those you have received during your tenure. You have refused or ignored our requests (individually and collectively) without bothering to respond in any way. Now, many of the involved agents are joining a class action lawsuit that your attorneys and managers necessitated by giving you filtered and inaccurate accounts of what is going on.
Please don’t tell us you didn’t know about this. Let the buck of 1,000 excuses stop at Ronnie and Billy. You have been provided ample and significant information to support the field's positions, including:
- Taking over 300 days to investigate EEOC complaints;
- An explosion of OIG and OSC complaints;
- Record settlements to cover the Bureau conduct that was endorsed and encouraged by your Counsel’s Office;
- Whistle blower complaints aired month after month in the media;
To categorize attempts by the field to communicate with management as “elusive” is a pure insult. It is your executives and managers that meet attempts to discuss problems with reprimands, reprisals, hostile work environments, threats, transfers and terminations. Do you really think that all these grievances, EEO complaints and lawsuits occur in a vacuum, without repeated attempts by the aggrieved employees to first communicate and resolve the problems informally? On the contrary, rather than being honestly and fairly addressed at the lowest possible level, even totally legitimate complaints usually morph into costly litigation because you and your staff refuse to hear anything that doesn't fit into your tidy little "template".
The reports that you receive regarding these field situations are filtered and sugar-coated through so many layers of self-protecting censors (management, counsel, ELRB, etc.) that by the time it hits your radar, is so distorted that it bears little or no resemblance to the truth. How many of the pending disputes against ATF have you personally looked into, beyond your "These people are just a bunch of non-team player malcontents" briefings from Ronnie, Billy or Chief Counsel?
The burden of establishing effective communications lies with and you and your executives. You have thrown down the challenge but offered no method or means of accomplishment. Accountability cannot be a one-way street. We have made suggestions, asked for direct meetings, suggested a working group comprised of field personnel chosen by their peers, rather than HQ. You have no doubt been counseled against meeting with “a bunch of misfits and whiners”, but if you take a closer look, most of the people demanding change and a voice are some of the most decorated, productive and loyal Agents this great agency has ever produced.
You said that “all voices need to be heard”, but now what? Talk is cheap, so why don’t you get effectively engaged and make a concerted effort to evaluate the real reasons that all these disputes have risen to such acrimonious and costly and levels?
Some great ways to demonstrate genuine good-faith would include:
- Respond to CleanupATF.org with an open letter addressing our skepticism openly and without the distorting input of Counsel or your Executive staff.
- Enact a working group (as a collateral duty) of field Agents, Investigators and clerical staff to provide current operational input regarding the Bureau’s strategic plans.
- For a separate working group comprised of field personnel selected by their peers to review pending employee disputes and recommended appropriate courses of action consistent with the Bureau’s policies and the principles of fair, good faith problem resolution.
- Aggressively seek effective methods for instilling a new corporate and management culture under which intimidation, harassment, retaliation, scorn for established complaint resolution procedures, false testimony, concealment or destruction of evidence, and a climate of fear are not acceptable methods of “leadership”.
- Discipline or remove executives or managers who engage in unethical or incompetent conduct, rather than promoting, transferring or retiring them with “honors”. Fire and prosecute those that knowingly break the law by lying under oath or otherwise hurting their subordinates to protect or further their own selfish interests.
- Order and fully support a thorough investigation of allegations regarding widespread and ongoing unethical and potentially unlawful conduct on the part of key officials within your Chief Counsel’s Office. This investigation should be conducted by an impartial third-party, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and the findings, no matter how unpleasant, should be accepted by top management and proactively addressed. This would almost certainly result in the removal of certain officials that have repeatedly engaged in a pattern of unethical and abusive conduct.