Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Document Shredders For Huntington SSA As Judge Daugherty Resigns

Why Would You Give Shredders To The Very Same Managers The Feds Are Actively Investigating? by WVNews Staff

“Management has all but accused staff of dumpster diving” according to one office employee who says supervisors appear to be blaming them for telling the feds and or news media about the ongoing problems. And that staff rummaged through the containers searching for documents to get evidence.

Shredding The Shredded

As the Office of Inspector General and Congressional hearings continue to investigate the scandals inside the SSI Appeals Office in Huntington WV, new document shredders (pictured to the left) were found sitting in the appeals office 2nd floor doorway. This was the same day news broke that ALJ David Daugherty resigned.  He had been on indefinite administrative leave while the feds investigate allegations of misconduct that includes collusion between Daugherty and attorney Eric C Conn.

Are new shredders for management just a coincidence with the departure of Judge Daugherty? People can only speculate, but the same source who throughout this case has been very accurate, now says that it’s all tied together and that more resignations or even transfers are possible. When asked the circumstances behind ALJ Daugherty resigning? “Daugherty resigned right after refusing to co-operate with the OIG investigation.”

Employees do not understand how the very same managers and supervisors who are currently under investigation by the feds are permitted to shred anything? They also want to know why these same individuals have not been placed on administration leave during the investigation. Instead, “they are given there own personal paper shredders to destroy any further evidence. And it is also giving them the opportunity to retaliate against staff whom they may feel have blown the whistle on them.”

“Management has all but accused staff of dumpster diving” according to one office employee who says supervisors appear to be blaming them for telling the feds and or news media about the ongoing problems. And that “we allegedly rummaged through the containers searching for documents to get evidence.”

Ironically, the office already has a longstanding contract with a company who has always shredded all of their trashed documents every month. Our source says there are 5 large containers with locks on them and slots to place discarded paperwork into that keep anyone from retrieving them.

Sources also say that it has been their understanding that no shredding was to be conducted by people under investigation unless OIG and or members of the Congressional Committee were made aware of it. As of this past Friday, neither office says they knew Huntington’s management received their own shredders or why.

These new cross-cutting shredders will essentially allow management to shred twice. “What else could now be so important that management needs to shred their documents before they go to the commercial shredder?”

According to policy, Region would have to approve the purchase of these Ativa Cross-Cut Shredders (retail $179) that went to Huntington’s upper management and supervising staff that include: John Patterson, Steve Hayes, Cary Roland and Greg Hall.

Policy And Accountability After The Scandal Headlines

Anytime an investigation of this magnitude happens, there is usually low morale, changes in staff - policy and some people left running for cover. The Huntington SSA office is currently experiencing all of the above.

Management is reportedly going back into employee files and placing employees on “AWOL STATUS” for any absence from work previously excused by supervisors.  This includes being out of work for sickness or injury without proper documentation from the doctor. Also, filling out SSA 71 forms for leave are now being denied even though the need to be off work is evident.

Office staff are no longer allowed to remain after 6pm daily for any reason and not allowed in the office at all on the weekends. Some attorneys and staff have been staying late and coming in on weekends for the past 20 years. This change may be due to the time and attendance problems reported by then Chief Judge Charlie Andrus against ALJ Daugherty and former ALJ Tinsley who were both either unaccountable at times or claimed they were coming in early, staying late and working weekends.      

According to records, overall time off and attendance requests are soaring since the scandal. Complaints against management and supervisors are also up, enough so that we were told employees may consider their policy right and ask all 3 union representatives to file what is called a “union management grievance” that allows by-passing local management and going straight to the top.

One employee in another SSA office who spoke off the record said his office management does not have their own personal shredders and that personnel are not being scrutinized like people in the Huntington office are claiming. “It sounds like management there is so under the microscope by investigators that they are either intentionally or unintentionally over enforcing policies that weren’t before to make themselves appear better.”

He went on to say, “in my opinion, going back now on alleged past infractions compiled with over enforcing policy previously ignored, is a form of retaliation considering the current circumstances.”

In Closing:

Management having their own personal shredders is not that unheard of in the business world. It’s the timing and who the people are receiving them that are raising eyebrows.

The words “Shredder” and “Huntington WV Appeals Office” used in the same sentence makes people’s expressions perk up while picturing employees scrambling and bosses screaming to hurry up and shred every document right before the feds swoop in and collect damaging evidence on paper.

In this specific story, you have management and supervisors who are currently under federal investigation and they are provided their own shredders. Keep in mind, there is already a long standing document shredding company who has been doing all of the offices shredding for many years.  

The feds have already been in the Huntington office and seized computers and documents they feel will support their beliefs at this time. But, according to staff we spoke to, it’s not what investigators already found; these specific individuals having their own shredder is insurance that nothing else in the future gets to federal investigators.

“If anyone was looking through the trash for any documents showing wrongdoing, this will stop that.” That is a possibility, no other Social Security office we could find recently implemented shredders just for management. It’s pretty much SSA’s policy to hire contracted companies to do all of the shredding and has been for years.

Is it retaliation that management is going back on staff for work related infractions that have already been excused or overlooked? Are supervisors retaliating by denying time off requests that include medical leave when they OK’d it before the scandal? As one person from another SSA office stated…

“It sounds like management there is so under the microscope by investigators that they are either intentionally or unintentionally over enforcing policies that weren’t before to make themselves appear better.”  Management and Supervisors will deny it of course and some people will say employees are overacting. If it could be proven, there are “Whistle Blower” laws to pursue.

Before the scandal broke, management enjoyed the comfort and security from being recognized as one of the top statistic achievers in both the region and nationally for cases settled and goals met. They were hitting their bonuses and it probably felt like Shangri-La with all of the pats on the back from above.

How quickly that can change, and how quickly everyone feels the fallout.

Note: As for Attorney Eric Conn, who is reported to also be under the same investigation by federal authorities, is in the midst of a media advertising campaign in the Huntington – Ashland viewing area claiming he is the victim of false accusations.
One TV advertisement on WSAZ TV (linked below) shows Conn bolstering his wealth by driving a luxurious Rolls Royce up to the gates of his office and ends with a female model beckoning him to “come back.” In which Conn replies that he has never been gone.  

As one viewer told this author, “in a time when the people of West Virginia and Kentucky are struggling so badly financially, Eric Conn continues to rub his money in their face, and the feds too.”
End Of Story…. for now

Jack Swint-Publisher
WV News 2011
(304) 982-7024
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline


Trac Report On SSA
TV News Story On ALJ Daugherty Retirement
Eric Conn Advertisement On YouTube

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