(WASHINGTON)—A Customs and Border Protection officer is back on the job thanks to the efforts of AFGE, which recently won an arbitration involving the officer’s removal from his position.
The officer was a legacy INS employee working at a border crossing station in Vermont. During a routine vehicular check, a car with two men (one a permanent resident, the other not) was referred for secondary inspection, which the CBP officer (CBPO) in question handled. Using CBP computers, the CBPO uncovered material regarding prior criminal activity of one of the men. The CBPO printed the material and placed it, along with other printed information that described the nature of the offense and copies of the men’s driver's licenses, into a folder. He returned to the public waiting areas where he had left the men and interviewed them there.
Six months later, the CBPO was served with a proposal for his removal from the service based on unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement sensitive information. The agency charged that the officer printed “law enforcement sensitive records” and showed them to the men being questioned.
AFGE Local 2076 President Maureen McManus contacted CBP Director of Field Operations Steven Farquharson and demanded arbitration on behalf of the officer. CBP rejected and returned the demand for arbitration, at which point McManus took advantage of AFGE’s attorney services. AFGE Attorney Angelia Wade re-invoked arbitration where she argued on behalf of the CBP officer, and sought reinstatement of the grievant and back pay with interest to the date of termination.
During the arbitration, two witnesses said that they saw the officer showing the subjects paperwork, but admitted they could not confirm that the materials were the sensitive records and not the other printed information. The arbitrator found for AFGE, stating that there was “no direct proof that the material [the grievant] showed the aliens was protected information,” so the charge must be set aside. The arbitrator ordered that the CBPO be reinstated within two weeks with full back pay and benefits.
“This decision should cause DHS to rethink how it treats its employees and that effect on the public,” Wade said. “If you have employees accusing one another of very serious misdeeds, without proper justification, and the agency acting on those accusations but without proper investigation, then that translates to a confused and chaotic workplace. The public has to question the integrity of an agency that is quick to believe and prosecute such serious allegations but slow to properly investigate them.”