Watchdog: Labor board member broke ethics rules
Saturday, March 24, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board improperly revealed information about the agency’s private deliberations to outside parties who had cases pending before the board, an internal government watchdog said Friday.
The board’s inspector general said Terence Flynn violated ethics rules by sharing confidential details on the status of pending cases and the likely votes of other members before decisions were released. A report from Inspector General David Berry also faulted Flynn for a “lack of candor” during the investigation.
Flynn is a Republican appointed to the board along with two others by President Barack Obama in January. The report said Flynn committed the violations when he was still a staff lawyer at the agency, before he was elevated to one of its five members.
The NLRB oversees union elections and enforces unfair labor practices. Its five board members — three Democrats and two Republicans — function much like judges on an appeals court, hearing cases and issuing legal decisions.
The 13-page report does not suggest what, if any, penalty Flynn might face. But the matter has been referred to the Justice Department for further investigation, said Brian Newell, spokesman for Minnesota Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
California Rep. George Miller, ranking Democrat on the committee, also called on the Justice Department to investigate.
“Such actions threaten the integrity of the board’s most vital operations,” Miller said.
NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland said Flynn had no comment on the report.
The report said Flynn committed most of the violations in 2011, while serving as chief counsel to the board’s other GOP member, Brian Hayes. It said much of the information Flynn passed on was shared with two former Republican board members who now work as lawyers in private practice and represent clients before the NLRB.
Flynn told attorneys representing clients before the board about pre-decisional votes, the early positions of other members, status of cases and the analysis of a pending rulemaking that was planned to streamline union elections, the report said.
In one instance, the report said, Flynn even helped an outside lawyer conduct research on how to attack a board rule that requires businesses to put up posters explaining union rights.
“Given Mr. Flynn’s position as chief counsel and his years of service, he knew, or should have known, that he had a duty to maintain the confidence of the information that he received in the performance of his official duties,” the report said.
The board under the Obama administration has come under withering attack by Republicans, who claim it has tilted too far in favor of unions at the expense of business interests.
The inspector general’s latest report comes on the heels of an investigation into whether Hayes — the other GOP board member — received improper inducements to resign his position. Last year, some conservative groups called on Hayes to resign in order to incapacitate the NLRB and prevent it from issuing the new union election rules.
The inspector general faulted Hayes’ judgment in discussing a possible move to private practice with an outside lawyer but said he committed no formal ethics violations. Hayes did not resign.
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