Report rejects allegations of racism

A private firm has concluded that allegations that a senior supervisor at the Capitol Power Plant racially discriminated against employees and engaged in workplace violence are false, according to an unreleased report ordered by the Architect of the Capitol (AoC).

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sought access to the report but was refused by the AoC. However, The Hill has obtained a copy.

According to the 17-page Cooper report, 47 people, including two non-employees, were interviewed about allegations of racism and violence at the Capitol Power Plant.

Investigators concluded that the senior supervisor did not engage in violence toward his subordinates but noted that “the evidence suggests” he violated AoC office policy for standards of conduct through frequent verbal intimidation and hostility.

The investigation was conducted by representatives of the law firm McGuiness, Norris and Williams LLP between August and December 2004 and cost the AoC $86,548.18, according receipts seen by The Hill.  

Mikulski sought a copy of the document upon its completion, but the AoC repeatedly refused her request. In an April 15 letter, the AoC cited confidentiality concerns as the main reason for denying Mikulski’s request. In a June 22 letter, Mikulski asked the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has oversight of the AoC, to request the report formally on her behalf. But she later referred the entire investigation to the Office of Compliance, citing a lack of jurisdiction.

“I do not know if there has been any violation of the Congressional Accountability Act, but the Office of Compliance is the most suitable body to make that determination, and I will leave the decision of how to proceed to them, based on their findings, “ she said in the July 22 letter to the AoC.

Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the AoC said, “The architect is proud of the Capitol Power Plant’s long record of delivering support and service to the Congress and the facilities across Capitol Hill. The AoC is disappointed that a copy of the internal report was released against our wishes.

“This disclosure violates AoC employees’ trust and may have a chilling effect throughout the organization. It may also impair our ability to conduct future internal and/or independent investigations of alleged violations of policies that protect employees.”

Carlton “Tiny” Vaughn, who is black and is one of men who accused the senior supervisor of violence, told The Hill several months ago that while on vacation in August 2004 he received an urgent phone call from a co-worker. He said that the co-worker recounted a troubling exchange between co-workers and a senior supervisor, who is white, about what he wanted for lunch. Vaughn said he was told that the supervisor replied that one of the workers should “bring him back an Uzi” so he could “kill me three niggers ... starting with the big one.”

The senior supervisor, who spoke to The Hill, said, “This report speaks for itself. The allegations discussed therein were baseless and completely false.”

Vaughn declined to comment this week on the advice of his attorney.

The report notes that no complaint of workplace violence was raised until eight days after the threatening comment was allegedly made and adds that if Vaughn felt threatened “it was for loss if his job, not of physical violence.”

According to the report, the senior supervisor did not make any threatening comments to Vaughn and “the evidence suggests that if [the senior supervisor] said something about an Uzi, the two individuals who heard it did not take it seriously.”

In addition to reporting on the events that triggered the investigation, the documents reveal problems within the management structure — a lack of communication and trust at the Capitol Power Plant is mentioned — that could have served as the catalyst to the initial accusations of racism and hate crimes.

“The rumor mill within the plant is a big source of discord,” the report says. “Decisions are made without explanation as to how or why. … Because no explanation is provided (other than ‘get it done’), employees jump to their own, often negative, conclusions, even though the underlying reason may be a positive.”

The report cites evidence that the sick-leave policy was used as a means of reward or punishment, with time being given or taken away as supervisors saw fit. It also noted a pervasive fear among employees of privatization of the power plant.