Broadcasting Board of Governors staff issues a gag order on Gallup contract, BBG employee union points out

AFGE Local 1812A commentary has been posted on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employee union AFGE Local 1812 website which deals with attempts by the BBG senior executive staffers to silence open discussion of the controversial BBG’s up-to-50 million dollar five year contract with the Gallup organization. Broadcasting Board of Governors member Ambassador Victor Ashe has opposed this contract from the very beginning on the grounds that it is far too expensive at the time when BBG’s budgets, programs, and broadcasting positions are being cut.

He and many others were also wondering how Gallup, which specializes in commercial audience research, can possibly have the expertise and the inclination to measure secret audiences to BBG programs in countries like Iran, China, and Cuba. Even if Gallup had such expertise, this type of research might hurt its commercial business in these countries.

Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to join a whistleblower lawsuit which alleges that Gallup has be overcharging other U.S. government agencies on their media and audience research contracts. Gallup denies and disputes these charges.

At the most recent open BBG meeting on September 13, 2012, Victor Ashe and another BBG Governor Michael Meehan were trying to get BBG executive staffers to discuss how they are checking on the Gallup’s billings for the agency and to give them a specific date for conducting an internal BBG audit of the contract. They both pointed out that the BBG is not a party to the whistleblower/Department of Justice lawsuit and that Gallup is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but they were still repeatedly rebuffed by BBG’s Deputy General Counsel Paul Kollmer-Dorsey. He asserted that because of the pending litigation the Department of Justice might object to an open discussion of these issues. When pressed, Kollmer-Dorsey admitted that he has received no such objections from DOJ and that U.S. attorneys have in fact suggested to the BBG that it conduct its own audit of the Gallup contract.

The AFGE Local 1812 union does not buy the GC’s arguments and in the following commentary alleges that the BBG executive staff is engaged in a pattern of attempts to limit open discussion, transparency, and public scrutiny. The article also points out that the past incidents of using discrimination against BBG employees and candidates for employment have cost the agency hundreds of millions of dollars because senior staffers refused to take appropriate actions and tried to limit public discussion of these issues.

Gag Order

Is it our imagination or is the Agency bent on hiding all of its possible legal issues behind gag orders and smoke screens?

We refer here to the attempt by BBG Governor Victor Ashe and Michael Meehan to discuss during an open meeting a controversial up-to-50 million dollar audience research contract between the Agency and the Gallup Organization and to set a specific date for conducting an internal BBG audit of the contract.

They were rebuffed by the BBG’s Deputy General Counsel Paul Kollmer-Dorsey who insisted that due to ongoing litigation the Department of Justice might object to a public discussion of the contract at the BBG open meeting. (Who is in charge here?)

Gallup is the target of a whistleblower suit for allegedly overcharging other U.S. government agencies on their contracts. Of course, said litigation is being openly discussed in U.S. media, and openly discussed in a court of law. There are zero reasons why the very public BBG contract with Gallup should not be discussed openly, unless the Agency has something to hide.

But the Agency seems to have a very, very long tradition of secrecy that it seems bent on preserving. You would think that middle management would welcome an opportunity to stay transparent about a contract that seems exceedingly costly in times of layoffs and budget cuts. But to be transparent, you have to be accountable. For many, many years, the Agency has behaved as if it is not accountable.

Remember when the Agency broke the law by discriminating against some 1,100 women job applicants and female staffers? That little business, conducted in not very good secrecy, cost the U.S. taxpayers half a BILLION dollars, when the bill came due.

Could it be that by staying very, very quiet the Agency hopes no one will notice that large legal bills are coming due for more disastrous decisions. There’s the bill for the November 2011 ruling by Federal Arbitrator Suzanne Butler regarding AFGE Local 1812’s grievance over the BBG’s reduction-in-force at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. There’s also the bill for the FLRA ruling in favor of Arbitrator George E. Marshall, Jr., that will force the Agency to compensate qualified U.S. citizens who were illegally bypassed for jobs and promotions in favor of foreign aliens.

The Agency seems to believe that if it can keep these legal problems under the rug, it does not have to be accountable. It can obfuscate, delay, postpone, continue to grant its middle managers large bonuses, until ….. well, until someone else — that is, the U.S. taxpayer — foots the bill yet again – an ever increasing bill – yet again.

We support BBG Governors Victor Ashe and Michael Meehan in their effort to inject more transparency in the review of the BBG/Gallup contract and support more transparency in general when it comes to how this Agency is run.

Posted: Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012

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