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Posted at 11:44 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Postal workers behaving badly

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 1:26 p.m. ET
You ever had one of those days when you want to throw your work in the trash? At least two postal letter carriers did it -- and got caught.

Most of the nation's almost 195,000 letter carriers this year swiftly completed their appointed rounds, but a few bad actors discarded mail or stole thousands of dollars of tax refunds and medication.

A Georgia letter carrier left the U.S. Postal Service in March after admitting he dumped more than 600 pieces of mail into a Dumpster, including Netflix DVDs and first-class mail. He told investigators that he threw out the mail because he wanted to be done for the day. The man is serving 12 months of probation, paid a $500 fine and $182 in restitution to Netflix.

A letter carrier in Alabama was caught on tape dumping more than 250 pieces of mail into a gas station Dumpster. She resigned from the Postal Service in August after pleading guilty to one count of delay of mail.

The bad behavior is detailed in the Postal Service Inspector General's semiannual report to Congress, which covers the period from March to September this year. The watchdog team conducted more than 1,990 investigations that prompted 453 arrests -- very few of which involved postal employees -- and more than $672 million in fines and restitution.

Some postal workers also stole from the mail before it leaves the post office, according to the report. A California postal worker quit in June after investigators caught her rifling through parcels in the back of a parked truck and stuffing pill bottles in her pant pockets and shirt.

Under questioning, she admitted to stealing from hundreds of parcels over four years to support an addiction to Vicodin. The worker resigned, was ordered to pay more than $9,300 in restitution and sentenced to 10 months in jail and six months of probation.

Closer to home, a District letter carrier and two co-conspirators pleaded guilty in July to stealing more than $100,000 in Treasury checks, D.C. government checks and identity theft. A joint sting operation in February between the Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service and the D.C. Office of Inspector General caught the postal worker mishandling checks belonging to other routes.

Over two years, the letter carrier admitted receiving about $500 for each check passed to her co-conspirators, who would then cash them using fake driver's licenses. She resigned from the Postal Service in July and was sentenced to 25 months in jail and ordered to pay more than $130,000 in restitution.

The Postal Service employs about 580,400 career workers and the actions of those described in the report represent a fraction of one percent of all USPS workers, spokesman Mark Saunders said.

"We are a microcosm of society," he said, adding later that "One offense is one too many and employees who commit illegal acts are dealt with accordingly."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 7, 2010; 11:44 AM ET
Categories:  Postal Service  
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Comments

Do they still get a mail handlers pension? Do they still receive the benefit of mail handlers health benefits as part of their retirement?

Posted by: cdg0606 | December 7, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Do they still get a mail handlers pension? Do they still receive the benefit of mail handlers health benefits as part of their retirement?
===============================
I sure as h3ll HOPE NOT!!

Posted by: Angryman | December 7, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I live near the Federal Building in San Francisco. Our Post Office is in its basement and the carriers who work out of there deliver both mail to my building and to the office of Speaker Pelosi.

Our service is terrible. We not only often have a substitute carrier who doesn't know the route and delivers nothing but junk mail (which goes to every address and therefore doesn't have to be sorted), but, as often as 2 days a week, we get no service at all. The explanation is that they are so busy delivering to the Federal Building offices, they don't have time to deliver to us.

I once called the Speaker's office and asked them to do something about the fact that their mail service was interfering with mine. I got no response.

Posted by: BTinSF | December 7, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I paid thousands to my congressman to keep our post office off the closing list.

Posted by: blasmaic | December 7, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

It would be very interesting to know how many allegations were overturned or reversed by arbitrators or judges. I know of a case of a Social Security employee who murdered his wife in Detroit, copped a plea to manslaughter, and was given work release by the trial court. SSA tried to fire him, but it was overturned by an arbitrator, and that was upheld in court. He did have to spend nights and weekends in jail, but who says you can't get away with murder?
It used to be well-known that you could not fire a Federal employee after the probationary period of one year. I myself made a point of giving probationary employees a lot of help and counsel, but if they did not turn it around, I did terminate employees, and I did not feel bad at all. The choice was that or leave them on the Federal payroll as nearly useless for 30 years or so.
Somehow, with stories of mail tossing and the like, I have a good deal less faith in mail-in election results. If a mail carrier favors one political party over another, it is easy to find out the voting history of the residents of a zip-code and to then toss their ballots if they tend to favor the other party. Personally, I don't think mail-in ballots are trustworthy.

Posted by: fedworker4 | December 7, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Did Mr. O'Keefe actually read the semiannual report, or did he just skip to the part that he could use to unfairly cast postal workers in a bad light?

Since Mr. O'Keefe has provided a reference to the report, I'll suggest that he read page 3, which repudiates the false notion that the Postal Service is sinking. In fact, the report states that USPS can recover up to $142 billion by the return of the massive overpayments to the pension and health benefit funds and the relief from having to continue massive overpayments for many years into the future. Now there's a story that is a bit more weighty than recitations of petty crimes committed by an unrepresentative sample of postal employees.

Posted by: mycroftt | December 7, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

What is the postal service employees' rate of criminal misbehavior as compared to that for others in positions entailing discretion and a minimal level of security clearance, I wonder?

If the postal service employee population is taken from a special population such as ex-military people, it would not be representative of the population as a whole, but rather representative of a population that had been subjected to unusual stress that might lead to drug abuse and other lapses in some of its more vulnerable members.

Posted by: CMNC | December 7, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

And, of course, workers in private business are perfect angels (especially at the top).

Posted by: risandy | December 7, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, columnists can sit in their little ivory towers and tap out just about whatever they choose, especially when it comes to people and institutions they don't much care for. While there are bad apples in EVERY line of work, the USPS should be commended for dealing with theirs by ridding the work place of them. Not cast in the harsh light of this columnist who is obviously running out of things about which to write.

In fact, most postal workers are hard-working and honest, and would not commit the acts named in Mr. O'Keefe's column. Naturally, a business the size of the USPS is going to inadvertently employ a few bad apples. This is true of any business, including that of the almighty newspaper (that by the way, isn't so almighty any longer). It's easy to be critical, especially with an entity such as the USPS that is so highly visible. Wouldn't it be nice if instead, some erstwhile columnist focused on the thousands of men and women who work for the USPS, who are hard-working, honest, and do their jobs every day without stealing, lying, or committing some other infraction? While that might make for dreary reading, it would shed light on the fact that the vast majority of postal workers are not a representation of what Mr. O'Keefe has chosen to highlight in his column.

Furthermore, whenever a column or article like this one appears, there are those who jump on the bandwagon to announce that they receive lousy service and that we should abolish it and move on. Of course, those same gripers will be at it once again when they wake up to the realization that you never miss something until it's gone. It is only then you begin to realize what you had and you begin to concentrate on the positive points (with the USPS there are many) instead of what you imagined were the many bad ones. Every business has it's good and bad points and if it were not for businesses like the USPS and so many others in our country, none of the gripers would have a job and no one would be making a living.

Newspapers are in a dire state today. I wonder what transgressions the people there are committing? I don't condone stealing or dumping mail, but let's keep things in perspective.

Posted by: Imaginethat | December 7, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I mailed a book to a friend via USPS one time and it magically disappeared in route. The USPS told me that maybe a machine had ground it up. Was standing in line at the post office and someone cut into the line. I spoke out and the postal worker just let the guy go ahead of us anyway. I tried to complain to the obese postal manager but he wouldn't respond as I knocked on his door even though I could here him socializing in his office. Another time I went to the post office to renew my post office box and when I got to the front of the line I was told to stand in back and wait. I waited 15 minutes while people who came in after me were served and then a postal worker said, "can't you see how busy we are?, we have a lot of people to serve." So I left. Then I ended up missing the post box payment deadline. If you try to complain to managers at USPS or to higher usp you will get nowhere.

Posted by: NDvege | December 7, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps one of our newly minted members of Congress will sponsor a bill that increases the penalties for those convicted of a crime that violates the public trust. Probation and a fine is a slap on the wrist and is too small a penalty for such callous disregard for other people's property.

In the past year I've had to complain to the Postal Inspector regarding missing (stolen) gift cards, prescription medication, and 1st class mail to my business that arrived 3 weeks late. No wonder the USPS is dying a slow death.

Posted by: TonyManero | December 7, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

i was a fully schemed level 5 postal clerk (circa 1983). the work was the best game show i ever experienced, but the management was the most third world oppression i even experienced. i doubt anything has changed... i believe they actually think this management style will run our country, or the world? lol.

Posted by: jgaskins1 | December 7, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

This is why I won't refill my medications with the mail service. We have a fairly good letter carrier in my neighborhood, but when we get a sub, my neighbors and I have a meeting in the cul-de-sac to trade each others mail; some days of the week it's after 6:00pm when the mail shows up. When I first moved to my present home nine years ago, the carrier would complain when he saw me that he hated delivering to one house in the neighborhood that had it's mailbox next to the front door, not on the street. This is because the occupants are an elderly couple who are both on oxygen and cannot get out to the street to get to the mailbox. What a weenie...I'm on So.Cal and it doesn't even get that cold here and it doesn't snow!

Posted by: kodonivan | December 7, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Every retail industry has a "shrinkage" problem. As much as 10% of merchandise can simply walk out the door. (Shrinkage = stealing by employees and customers)

For instance, a company the size of Walmart it equals several billion dollars per year. This seems to be a problem for society in general, private and public.

Posted by: NewThoughts | December 7, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes being a postal employee, like many other government workers, means never having to say you're sorry. My dad was in the postal service for 39 years and was on an internal panel that came up with the zipcode system. He loved and breathed the post office, but was frustrated with the idiots the service was sometimes forced to endure. Today most of the idiots are in management.

Posted by: stvcar | December 7, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

My only comment about the post office right now is that the Head Honcho should be dismissed since he makes over a million a year and has LOST BILLIONS during his tenure. I doubt that will happen but they better stop criticizing the private sector when they do the same thing. Note, that Federal pay freeze means nothing.....they are getting raises totaling billions more. Shut the whole d@#*n government down and save the world!!!

Posted by: etshoney | December 7, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Postal workers behaving badly
================================
And yet, you dare not complain. For the fear that they may go Postal!

Posted by: kishorgala | December 7, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Did Mr. O'Keefe actually read the semiannual report, or did he just skip to the part that he could use to unfairly cast postal workers in a bad light?

Since Mr. O'Keefe has provided a reference to the report, I'll suggest that he read page 3, which repudiates the false notion that the Postal Service is sinking. In fact, the report states that USPS can recover up to $142 billion by the return of the massive overpayments to the pension and health benefit funds and the relief from having to continue massive overpayments for many years into the future. Now there's a story that is a bit more weighty than recitations of petty crimes committed by an unrepresentative sample of postal employees.
Posted by: mycroftt
***************************
Please get back to your route, I'm expecting a package.

Posted by: overed | December 7, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

It's so sad that the thousands of hard working postal workers who work long hours in sometimes miserable conditions have to be denigrated by people who have no clue as to the operation of the postal service. For those of you who condemn the postal service, I dare say you would not perform the same service without complaint.

Posted by: popichak | December 7, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

BT in SF: your address is part of an unassigned area & has no regular mail carrier. Postal Management is assigning each day,replacement temporary workers who never work your area on a regular schedule,therefore you get lousy and untimely service.
Ed O'Keefe has not mentioned misdeeds by members of Postal Management but within the USPS, legendary exploits are hushed so as to white-wash favored personnel.

Posted by: naahbob | December 7, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I should mention that employees contribute half of their retirement out of their paychecks.

Posted by: naahbob | December 7, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

This is trivial bad behavior compared to what our politician-banker-financiers have been doing for decades. People are not stupid. How can we expect them to be moral when they see the big freeloaders winning in life with impunity? We need to be motivated by hard work, fairness and honesty again.

Posted by: AlleninKerrville | December 7, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

So, to prosecute Cheney and Bush we'd have to make them mail handlers?

Hey Dicky, how's that left aorta treating you? I'm betting you're gone by New Years.

Posted by: veerle1 | December 7, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I note that Mr. O'Keefe overlooked the high-dollar swindles of the SSAs,intending to white-wash in his article, the illegal acts of Postal Management and their direct employees in area USPS offices. Obviously Postal Management fails spectacularly at supervising the employees in their offices' financial transactions and gives rise to poor management within the Bonus-level Management teams.

Posted by: naahbob | December 7, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I sent my brother a money order via of USPS. It came back about 2 weeks later, opened and in an envelope with the local social security return address. To this day I can't understand that.I had to use another stamp and envelope to remail it.That made him have to wait an additional
2 weeks for something that he should have gotten within 3 days after I mailed it.Postal workers are no worse than any other groups of people over worked,under paid and cannot afford to quit.I do think that most of them are honest hard working people.

Posted by: barbarashorter5 | December 7, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

I am a retired Postal Mail Handler! Yes the Postal Service has some bad apples, but so does every corporation. Postal employees are always in the public eye because they serve the public. Here in Portland Oregon one of the supervisors took nixie mail (this is mail that has indecipherable addresses or torn and damaged so an address cannot be ascertained) and took it out and threw it in the dumpster. When the nixie clerk complained the supervisor stated it is my prerogative! When the clerk complained up higher he was told the supervisor could destroy the mail! He again went to the inspectors, and received the same line of crap! Destruction of any first class mail by anyone other than the Mail Recovery Centers is a violation of Federal Law! We all knew that, but we were powerless against the crooked management. Postal supervisors are ogres; they will lie, cheat and steal, to make themselves look good. Next time your carrier gives good service praise him/her! Show them that you care about their dedication. The problem with the Postal Service goes to the top. Replace the top, and then let them fire the incompetents all the way down. When the incompetent supervision is gone the Postal Service will be run more efficiently, and much cheaper. The "bonus" program that was supposed to be for all supervisors only goes to the top 5 pay grades, about 1.2 billion dollars a year! Good Postal employees are driven to commit these acts by poor Postal managers!

Posted by: newsjunkie1 | December 7, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Every single company in the world has some bad eggs in it. The only differance is that they havent been caught. I would even bet that there are some bad eggs in our political leaders here in the USA, there everywhere.

Posted by: randykree | December 7, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Jail time is fine... but how the hell do they pay the restitution and fines back to the courts and government? Nobody will hire them again. Put them in jail for a minimum of 30 years and confiscate all properties!

Posted by: dakotahgeo | December 8, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

Jail time is fine... but how the hell do they pay the restitution and fines back to the courts and government? Nobody will hire them again. Put them in jail for a minimum of 30 years and confiscate all properties!

Posted by: dakotahgeo | December 8, 2010 12:52 AM | Report abuse

you can help solving these crimes with a Criminal Justice Degree, search the internet for "United Forensic College"

Posted by: sveinyael | December 8, 2010 3:54 AM | Report abuse

Like any profession...Dr,IRS,etc.. Everyone has a bad USPS story. However, as a letter carrier, I find it completely unfathomable that someone would throw away their job, and any chance for future credibility for monetary gain. Perhaps money simply never meant that much to me in the first place. I try to treat each family on the route as I would MY family..and I would hate someone stealing from MY family. However, the very nature of "fallen man" is remarkably less than honorable.

Posted by: robb32 | December 8, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

You think the US is bad? I live in Portugal and we read that in Italy every year around Christmas time there is a story (last year with a photo) of Italian Postal workers burning mountains of mail "secretly" ... that's how the Italians solve the seasonal increases in mail.

Posted by: casaalta | December 8, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

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