Employees of the Month

Last month, I needed to submit some forms to a county office, so I went online to learn the procedure.  As I examined the site, I discovered that the link for online submission was down.   Fortunately, I had a hard copy of the paperwork saved from a prior year, and I figured I would simply update the information by hand and drop it off at the county office in person.  I finished the arduous, fill-in-the-boxes process and delivered the packet a week ahead of its required deadline.  Three weeks later, I received my own forms in the mail, returned to me with a note attached that explained how the office no longer accepts hard copies, but requires online submission.

Because the deadline had long since passed and I now faced penalty, I quickly phoned the office to discuss the matter.  The man who answered had no reasons for why my forms were returned and simply replied, “You’re outta luck.”  I demanded his supervisor’s phone number, and he obliged.  With my ire rising, I called the head of the department and explained my situation.  She said I didn’t follow the submission procedures so there was nothing she could do.  I explained that the website was down, which is why I completed the necessary information on paper.  She told me she would call the IT manager to see about the problem and would call me back.  After ninety minutes of waiting by the phone, and watching five o’clock come and go, I accepted that I was being blown off.

The following day, a Friday, I called the Vice President of the appropriate division.  He listened to my concern and asked for the names of the two employees who had basically ignored my queries.  He seemed responsive to my plight, vowed to investigate, and would call me back on Monday.  I never heard from him on Monday.  Nothing on Tuesday.  Not even Wednesday.  Finally, on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., an e-mail.  In that note, the VP explained that he had consulted with his employees and that they had agreed there was nothing else to be done.  However, within that final e-mail were numerous, blatant lies from his underlings concerning what they told me and what I had told them.  The matter was deemed to be resolved, and I would be penalized for missing the deadline.

These are employees that are paid through the tax dollars of citizens.  These government workers operated a faulty website, rudely avoided phone interaction, lied about their participation, and cowardly used e-mail as a conduit for an important matter.  All the while, they purposefully chose to not accept material that was actually submitted earlier than necessary.  This is the effort and efficiency of your government at work.

But my experience is not an isolated case.

In Thursday’s New York Times, two separate stories ran concerning the incompetence of the city’s government employees.  One piece told the story of the Transportation Department’s year-long negligence in changing a streetlight bulb.  That’s right, an entire year to change a light bulb.  Another column explained the problems with worker fraud within the New York City Housing Authority.  Employees had been found guilty of lying on timecards, not filling work orders, and conducting personal business on company time.  Even though some of the employees were arrested and fined, they still kept their jobs.  Some of them all the way to retirement, where I am sure they earned a decent government pension.

Surely, liberals will cry out how this occurs in the private sector, as well.  After all, major CEOs recently ran their corporations into the ground and were given millions for their haphazard management.  But we must remember those business leaders were promised those deals before they were hired as incentives to join those companies.  And in many cases, it is often better for a business to pay off a terrible boss and fire him than to allow him to keep ruining the company.  It’s done in major athletics every day and no one bats an eye.  But government employees are supposed to be different.  We naturally hold them to a higher level because it’s our money they are earning.  But too many times, there is no real punishment.  No personal pride.  And in some cases, irresponsibility actually goes hand in hand with promotion.     

Just last week, my younger sister, a college student at a state school, told me how her tenured professor and chair of a medical studies division routinely shows up late to class.  My sister became especially frustrated recently when her instructor showed up forty minutes tardy, then expected the students to stay afterwards for forty minutes to make up the time.  Many of the students who had other classes and jobs to attend justifiably walked out at the normally designated time, but because the instructor is the head of the department and many students fear for their position in the program, none of the students feel comfortable in speaking out about the persistent unprofessional behavior.

These are government-funded employees, and they face no repercussions.  As we have seen with President Obama’s recent Cabinet appointments, apparently government workers need not follow rules or show accountability.  If the leaders of our country refuse to pick up a phone to help a citizen, refuse to keep our streets and buildings safe, or refuse to show up on time as an example for the youth of America, perhaps it is President Obama’s fellow government employees that truly need “change.”  If the leaders of our country need not be competent, where does our “hope” lie?