POLITICS: PennAve

Energy Department flexes on Bonneville Power for hiring scandal

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PennAve,Energy and Environment,Veterans,Zack Colman

The Energy Department is extending its reach over the Bonneville Power Administration following a hiring scandal at the federally administered electric utility.

The Pacific Northwest utility discriminated against veterans in the hiring process, a recent Energy Department inspector general report found.

Bonneville’s human resources department will report directly to DOE headquarters in Washington as the agency and the electric utility work to craft new hiring guidelines, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said in a memo to the utility.

Elliot Mainzer, the utility's acting administrator, told employees that the collaboration with DOE officials would “strengthen our overall operations to fully address the issues” laid out in the report.

The report said utility personnel fiddled with job applications to improperly exclude veterans and other candidates. It pinned the blame on BPA’s “management culture” of “deflecting departmental oversight” concerning human resources.

It added that the impact of the utility's hiring practices is “widespread, has subjected affected individuals to economic consequences, has disrupted department and Bonneville operations, and has exposed the department to a variety of legal challenges.”

Poneman said Friday that DOE takes the findings of that report “very seriously,” which he said necessitated the agency’s broadened role.

He said in the memo that DOE general counsel is working directly with Mainzer to ensure BPA employees can air concerns about the utility without fear of retaliation.

Also, DOE’s chief human capital officer will partner with Mainzer to implement new employee evaluation criteria, Poneman said. And BPA’s general counsel will report to its headquarters counterpart, he said.

Mainzer was named acting administrator in July as a response to previous accusations that BPA officials had silenced employees who attempted to shed light on the utility's hiring practices.

DOE and BPA will review progress in six months, Poneman said in the memo.

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