Politics

Lawmakers press Postal Service board member whether DeJoy’s hiring was politically motivated

WASHINGTON — A former member of the Postal Service Board of Governors said he objected to the hiring of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, according to two lawmakers. The comment led the Democratic lawmakers to send a letter to Republican board member John Barger asking whether the selection was politically motivated.

David C. Williams, who was a member of the nine-person board, told Democratic Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Katie Porter of California that he quit, in part, because of the hiring of DeJoy. He offered his resignation days before DeJoy was named to the position in May.

“I had expressed concerns after each of the interviews with Mr. Louis DeJoy,” Williams, a Democratic appointee, told the lawmakers, adding that he suggested a background check.

David Williams, inspector general of the United States Postal Service, testifies in Washington on Aug. 6, 2009.Joshua Roberts / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Williams briefed a group of progressive House Democrats on Thursday afternoon about his time on the board and what he saw as its increased politicization in recent months.

Because of the admission, Krishnamoorthi and Porter sent a letter to Barger asking about the selection of DeJoy, including whether he discussed his candidacy with any Republican official or Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

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“Given your extensive record of making financial contributions to Republican Party officials, several of which have been made while you were a sitting member of the USPS Board of Governors, we request the following information about any possible coordination you may have had with political entities when recommending Mr. Louis DeJoy to the selection committee,” the lawmakers wrote to Barger.

The letter also claims that DeJoy was never recommended by the consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates, which was hired to recruit candidates for the postmaster general position. Instead, he was introduced to Barger by the selection committee, a process the lawmakers call “irregular.”

At the briefing Thursday, Williams said Mnuchin “insisted that all Republican appointees for the Board of Governors and Postal Regulatory Commission come to his office to kiss the ring and receive his blessing before confirmation. He continued contacts with them away from the full board issuing orders and expressing his approval and disappointment with their performance.”

He testified that the board’s “independent role had been marginalized and that representations regarding an independent postal service for the nation were no longer truthful.”

The nine-member board selects the postmaster general.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a separate letter to Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan also requesting information about the selection of DeJoy. He asked that Russell Reynolds Associates be released from a nondisclosure agreement to discuss the hiring process of DeJoy. Schumer also asked if Mnuchin or President Donald Trump had a role in his selection.

In a letter to Schumer, Mnuchin wrote that he asked the Board of Governors “to keep me apprised of the Board’s search for a new Postmaster General, as appropriate, because strong management is essential to the financial health of USPS.” He goes on to say he played “no role” in the selection of DeJoy and was “surprised to learn” that he was a candidate.

DeJoy’s tenure has coincided with a slowdown in mail service and widespread operational problems, including the suspension of overtime for postal workers and the removal of sorting machines at postal centers around the country. He said this week that the changes were implemented as cost-saving measures before he became postmaster general and that he would suspend some of the changes until after the election.

The Postal Service Board of Governors was designed to operate much like a private company’s board of trustees. The board is supposed to consist of nine members, but only six of the slots are currently filled and all of them by Trump appointees — two Democrats and four Republicans. Two of the three unfilled spots are Democratic positions.

Democrats are stepping up their scrutiny of the board itself, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sending a letter reminding members that they have the authority to reverse decisions by the postmaster general.

DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Friday and before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Monday.

CORRECTION (Aug. 20, 2020, 6:00 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article included an incorrect photo. The photo depicted USPS Vice President of Network Operations David E. Williams. It has been replaced with a photo of former member of the Postal Service Board of Governors David C. Williams.

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