Another veteran alleges discrimination by Bonneville Power Administration, files suit seeking damage
By TED SICKINGER | The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. | Published: July 22, 2014
Bruce Prunk, a retired Portland deputy police chief and former Brigadier General in the Oregon Air National Guard, is suing Bonneville Power Administration, claiming he was one of the victims of the federal power marketing agency's discriminatory hiring practices.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, is the first of as many as a dozen that Prunk's attorney says he plans to file on behalf of individuals in the next few months alleging a pattern and practice of discrimination against veterans and others by Bonneville and its managers.
The attorney, Thomas Patton, says none of the clients he represents have been contacted as part of BPA's remediation process, in which the agency is offering jobs to those who were discriminated against over a two year period ending in June of 2013.
"The remediation was doomed to fail for the beginning," Patton said. "There's no way they were going to solve this by looking back only two years. I don't believe they scratched the surface of the problem."
Bonneville has spent the past year dealing with the fallout of its massively dysfunctional human resources operation. Investigators found that inexperienced managers with little knowledge of federal hiring practices instituted informal procedures that violated federal law and discriminated against veterans and other applicants for jobs. The agency's two top executives lost their jobs amid acccusations that they sanctioned retaliation against whistleblowers, and the agency was stripped if its hiring authority by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Prunk said he applied in January 2013 for a job as a management and program analyst working in the agency's security operation. With a long and distinguished military and law enforcement career, and a veterans preference that gave him an additional 10 points in the evaluation, he figured he'd make the cut for an interview.
Indeed, after he filled out the application online, he says he received word from BPA's contractor that he met all the requirements and an interview would be scheduled.
He never heard anything more, despite persistent inquiries with BPA's personnel department. He eventually complained to the Inspector General's Office at the Department of Energy, but couldn't get a call back from them until Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden's office intervened on his behalf. He still hasn't heard back on his case, and has been unable to determine how Bonneville filled the position.
"There's been nothing, not only from Bonneville but from DOE and the IG's office," said Prunk, who is seeking lost wages and compensatory damages of $500,000. I'm not doing this to get any money out of it. But I think they need to be held accountable."
Accountability and transparency have been watchwords for agency managers in the wake of the scandal, though it has made slow progress, failing in some cases to respond to basic public records requests that are now more than a year old.
As part of its recovery plan, BPA, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reconstructed nearly 1,200 BPA hiring cases that took place between October 2010 and June 2013. Those included 400 external hires, and it identified 35 cases where a candidate or candidates had been treated unfairly because of agency mismanagement or ignorance of proper hiring practices.
The agency has hired 45 as part of the reconstruction process and made another 51 offers that were declined or got no response. It has another three dozen possible hires in process.
Brian Carter, BPA's new director of human resources, told employees last week that BPA was moving swiftly and estimated that at the end of the day, it would hire 60 new employees as part of the remediation process.
BPA did not comment on Prunk's lawsuit, but a spokesman said the hiring process is still ongoing.
"From my perspective, they haven't turned over any rocks. They haven't contacted me at all," Prunk said. "Before they start doing a victory lap I'd bring everyone into the room and make sure they'd solved this thing."