Spendthrift bureaucrat's 'penalty': a mere transfer

May 04, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

The Postal Service has found a solution to the embarrassing problem created by Celestine Green, the lady with a bold flair for interior design.

Ms. Green is the postal executive who recently spent $200,000 in Postal Service funds to create an incredibly palatial office for herself in a building that is scheduled to be vacated in a year and a half.

As a Chicago Tribune investigative team discovered, Ms. Green gave herself a four-room suite that included a $4,000 potty, a whirlpool bath, full kitchen with automatic dishwasher, and everything else a happy bureaucrat needs to shuffle memos.

Under Postal Service rules, Ms. Green's purchase orders had to be approved by -- of all people -- Ms. Green herself.

When the story of the spectacular office came out, the Postal Service's top stamp peddlers expressed horror, dismay and chagrin, and sighed deeply.

Actually, the postal officials were less upset by Ms. Green's craving for comfort than by the publicity.

That is one of the unwritten rules of government bureaucracy: Doing something idiotic is not advisable; getting caught doing something idiotic is a disaster.

But government bureaucrats are a forgiving sort. They might not forgive you or me if we fill out the wrong form or stand in the wrong line.

For each other, though, they have almost saintly compassion and a capacity for forgiveness.

In Ms. Green's case, her postal superiors decided they could no longer keep her in charge of sorting and distributing Chicago's mail. Not while they were being flailed with news stories about her new office.

So they transferred her. They put her in charge of sorting and distributing the mail in the south suburban division of the Postal Service.

That way she will continue to draw a postal executive's paycheck, retain her fringe benefits, and glide toward her postal pension.

Two other postal managers got light taps on the wrist, too. The Chicago district manager was sent to Columbia, S.C., which has a much nicer climate and a lower cost of living. And the city's chief of customer service -- a title that is kind of a joke to Chicagoans -- was sent to work his dubious magic in Kansas City.

If Ms. Green was a manager in the private sector, she would be buying some of those computer software programs that create nifty looking job resumes.

But Ms. Green goes on a decorating binge, and what do they do? They move her to a suburban executive job, where she will have less work and won't have as tough a commute.

It shouldn't be surprising. Politicians and bureaucrats take care of themselves and each other.

That's probably why the easiest, most practical way to handle this mess was to transfer Ms. Green and the other two. Firing Ms. Green would have been too much of a hassle.

If you worked for a widget-making company and squandered the firm's funds on a jaw-dropping office, you would surely be fired and stripped of your benefits, and might even be sued.

But that is life in the fast and bumpy lane of the private sector.

For government bureaucrats, it is a different process. It's something like Death Row appeals. If you fire a bureaucrat in 1994, by the time the appeals have run out, it might be the year 2004 or 2014 before a final judgment is handed down. So the hassle is such it costs less in money and migraines to just find someone like Ms. Green another desk in another city.

That's why the Chicago postal service is such a joke. Postal workers can be zonked on drugs, drunk, hung over, surly and menacing, can dump mail under viaducts, hide it in closets, burn it, or stick it in the wrong mailbox, and all their supervisors do is shrug and sigh. Or find a diversion in designing themselves luxury office suites.

This is something to keep in mind when considering the possibility that the government will take over our medical care (while keeping a separate plan for itself).

If getting a postcard from here to there is such a monumental project, imagine what it will be like when these bozos start taking your X-rays.

Hey, since when are there five toe-bones in my heart?

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