Morale Charades at Chemical Safety Board
Managing Director Scapegoated as CSB Stalls Mandatory Morale Survey Analysis
Washington, DC — After blaming prior leadership for poor morale, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board has been silent on why the latest federal employee survey shows morale still falling, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In fact, the CSB is in violation of federal regulations requiring release of both detailed morale survey results conducted from May 5 to June 12, 2015 together with an analysis of those results within 120 days.
On Monday, the CSB served notice that it would seek the termination of Managing Director Daniel Horowitz, citing in part “the chilling effect [his] overall conduct had on employee morale” during the tenure of former Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso. At the same time the agency made these accusations, it failed to post the results of the 2015 morale survey, which show that CSB morale actually fell after Moure-Eraso’s resigned in March and Horowitz’s responsibilities were curtailed.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requires all executive agencies to conduct the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey annually and to publish full results along with an evaluation on agency websites within 120 days of survey completion. These federal regulations required the agency to publish the survey results and agency evaluation no later than October 9, 2015 – a deadline CSB has blown.
On October 6th, OPM released a summary of 2015 morale survey results, which reflected modest gains in morale across the government as a whole since 2014. In sharp contrast, the aggregated data revealed that in almost all areas of employee engagement – such as opinions of leaders, supervisors, intrinsic work experience, and global satisfaction – the CSB set new lows not seen since June 2010, when the Board was led by former Chairman John Bresland. Following Moure-Eraso’s ouster, former Board Member Mark Griffon and current Member Rick Engler functioned as acting chairmen and largely revoked delegations of authority to the agency’s career staff, including Dr. Horowitz.
“The evidence suggests that the prior CSB Chair was the victim, not the cause, of demoralizing infighting,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that by every single OPM metric CSB employees’ morale and engagement were lower after Dr. Moure-Eraso’s ouster than during any of the four plus years of his tenure in office. “Scapegoating past leaders will not fix the problems still plaguing this vital but deeply troubled agency.”
Besides sitting on the morale survey results, the new CSB leadership has refused to disclose information about its expenditures, outside contracting and even the process it uses to decide which chemical accidents to investigate. The CSB has not deployed investigators to any of the more than 25 major chemical accidents involving fatalities or injuries, during the past 8+ months. Moreover, recent statements by the new Chair Vanessa Sutherland indicate the CSB may not deploy to any accidents until it completes reports on six still open cases although the rationale for fixating on this relatively small backlog is unexplained.
“By focusing on protracted internal investigations into petty, stale disputes, the Chemical Safety Board is becoming increasingly irrelevant to improving the safety of America’s aging oil and chemical plant infrastructure,” added Ruch whose organization will provide legal representation for Dr. Horowitz in challenging his proposed removal. “Civil servants should not be burned at the stake in politicized witch trials for simply doing their jobs.”