Report: BPA hiring put veterans at disadvantage

PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal officials have released a report blasting the Bonneville Power Administration for “widespread and pervasive” hiring practices that discriminated against veterans and other applicants.

The report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s inspector general follows a highly critical audit in August of human resources work at the federal utility agency.

The BPA markets power from 31 federal dams in the Columbia Basin and manages much of the region’s power grid. The agency sells power to more than 140 Northwest utilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana and to California.

According to the report, the BPA consistently manipulated the rating process for applicants — which resulted in the exclusion of veterans and others from consideration for job selection. Violations occurred in 117 of 240, or nearly half, the cases from November 2010 to June 2012.

The report also shows the agency didn’t disclose the inappropriate personnel practices or their adverse impacts, and didn’t start corrective actions.

The problems resulted partly from a management culture, the inspector general found, including Bonneville officials trying to distance the organization from Department of Energy procedures and processes and deflecting federal oversight.

The report also found that staff members who had raised concerns with officials or had cooperated in the inquiry had been subjected to retaliation, including suspension or removal from service.

The inspector general’s investigation comes in response to complaints from whistle-blowers alleging violations at the agency.

The agency’s acting administrator, Elliot Mainzer, said in a written statement that the findings are “deeply troubling” and the agency is “fully committed to addressing the problems.”

Mainzer was appointed to lead the agency and its 3,100 employees after the Department of Energy suspended the BPA’s two top administrators in July.

The report says Bonneville will have to spend at least $3 million to quantify the extent of the problem and design corrective action — and that does not include making it right for the people who were affected by the discriminatory practices.

The agency will have to reconstruct or review at least 1,200 hiring case files representing about 22,000 applicants, the report said.

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