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Any Indicted Fed Can be Suspended Indefinitely

Federal agencies can indefinitely suspend an employee who they believe was involved in a crime, even before the person is found guilty – so long as they have been indicted by a grand jury.

The Merit Systems Protection Board recently ruled in Henderson v. The Veterans Affairs Department that the VA acted properly by indefinitely suspending an employee who a federal grand jury indicted on 50 counts punishable by fines, imprisonment or both, according to GovExec.

The employee, Cathedral Henderson, 51, a former program analyst in Atlanta, GA, was indicted on charges stemming from falsifying health records and lying about it. Henderson was found guilty earlier this year on all 50 counts and awaits sentencing. He could face up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

According to GovExec:

Absent a third-party review, Henderson argued, the agency had denied him his constitutionally-protected due process and should not be able to suspend him indefinitely.

MSPB, however, affirmed an earlier ruling from the regional administrative judge. In doing so, the board set a precedent allowing agencies to use the same suspension justification in the future.

The board suggested the “reasonable cause” necessary to validate an indefinite suspension was “virtually synonymous with the ‘probable cause’ necessary to support a grand jury indictment.” The arrest of an employee alone is not sufficient, MSPB said, but an indictment elevates the case past the suspension threshold.

“The appellant's contention that the indictment was based entirely on evidence and testimony provided by the agency, even if true, does not negate the sufficiency of the grand jury indictment,” MSPB wrote in a summary of the case.

Posted in General News

Tags: Veterans Affairs, VA , MSPB, indefinite suspension

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