Judge reverses demotion of VA exec targeted for relocation scandal

A Merit Systems Protection Board judge has reversed the Department of Veterans Affairs’ demotion of a former senior executive suspected of using her office for personal and financial gain.

In his decision, Chief Administrative Judge William Boulden agreed with VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson that Diana Rubens “should have recused herself from all involvement” in the relocation of another VA employee, and that by “not doing so … she created the appearance of impropriety, and in so doing, failed to exercise sound judgment.”

But because another employee, Beth McCoy, deputy undersecretary for field operations and Rubens’ assistant, was not being disciplined for her part in what the VA saw as a relocation scandal, Rubens’ demotion was not reasonable.

Requests for comment from VA as well as Rubens’ attorneys were not immediately returned.

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Last week an MSPB judge in Chicago reversed the VA’s decision to demote Kimberly Graves for a similar alleged abuse of power.

Graves, along with Rubens, were senior executive employees  for the Veterans Benefits Administration. They’ve been under VA’s microscope regarding an alleged relocation scandal that resulted in the government paying roughly $400,000 for them to relocate within the department.

Both women were named in an IG report issued Sept. 28. The IG report stated that Rubens and Graves inappropriately coerced two other directors to leave their positions when they were not interested in leaving, so their vacancies would be created for Rubens and Graves. Those two employees were Robert McKenrick, currently the director of the VBA Los Angeles regional office, and Antione Waller, the current director of the Baltimore VBA regional office.

Both women were demoted in November, but their demotions were rescinded after a paperwork mix-up. The VA then reissued the demotions. Both received unspecified pay cuts, according to the Associated Press.

Graves “failed to exercise sound judgement” when she took a VA position previously filled by an employee she recommended for reassignment, wrote MSPB Chief Administrative Judge Michele Schroeder in her bench decision. But because no one in her chain of command said anything about it, nor was anyone else similarly punished, the VA’s decision to demote her was “unreasonable.”

The AP reported in late December that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia would not be pressing criminal charges for either woman.

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