Subject: why I am leaving USFWS - and thanks
to those who have helped me 15 years
Gentlemen and ladies,
This email serves as the attachment to my exit interview questionnaire and lists my reasons for leaving the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Before I begin with those items, I would like to acknowledge those that I will remember for their contributions to my career and the skills that I
carry forward to my new position. I only wish that they could be thanked in some larger forum, as they so deserve. The people listed below are the
backbone and the true success stories that I believe will take the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Agency) forward and hold true to the motto of the US
Fish and Wildlife Service especially the part . . . for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Donna Price, Budget Supervisor, Western Washington Field Office. Ms Price hired me and trained me when I entered the Agency in 1987. She showed
me that being professional in my duties even when others were not, was necessary so that I could perform my duties and gain further knowledge in
serving this agency.
John Cooper, Western Washington Field Office. Mr. Cooper was the best mentor. He taught me so much about the history of the Agency. He
additionally challenged me to do better by learning more difficult tasks, and that a job title should not limit you. That you can and could always
stretch higher and further. He also taught me to do the job for myself and not for titles and awards. He was right, knowing the value in my duties has
served me more times than I can say over the years.
David Frederick, Western Washington Field Office. This man let me know that I had something to contribute to the Service. He showed me that my ideas
were worthy of being listened to and that I was a part of his team. He stood by me when another employee had publicity embarrassed me and showed
me that supervisors could be wrong and held accountable for their actions.
I as many others owe Mr. Frederick a thank you for his skill of being a mentor to young and inexperienced staff. This man does set the bar higher
and makes you work hard. However, he also lets you set the bar higher to grow too, what a leader he is and has been, and what service he has given
to the Agency.
Dennis Peters, Retired, Region 1, National Wetlands Inventory. He took an employee who had more desire than skills and allowed me to grow into a
Regional employee who could work in any office with confidence.
Donald Steffeck, Environmental Contaminants Region 1. This man showed me that a kind and gentle approach could be effective. That soft words, and
encouragement of all employees could and do get the job done. His passion in his work and willingness to offer assistance to all is a model that I
will try to follow.
Director Jamie Clark, US Fish and Wildlife Agency. I wrote the Director and stated, she as the Director should include the Agency's mission statement
in each email and document the Agency puts out. In less than two weeks it happened, and has appeared since then on documents of those who followed
her. I felt that simple suggestion was heard and acknowledged what a pleasure it was for me. I have shared this story with anyone I could
since it occurred.
There are also so many others who have given daily help and assistance and taught me so much in the fifteen years that I have served with the
Department of the Interior. These wonderful people made an impression on me and I thank them for their contributions to my skills, my life and work
career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Reasons why I am leaving the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
1. No further development potential in my position.
Clerks and other support staff in the Agency have no career path. How many
clerks and support staff have had to leave the Agency for promotions and career growth? Too many! There is no effort currently to allow staff this
needed part of a career. The large amount of training and effort to train clerks only benefits the new employer, when it should benefit the Agency.
Additionally, staff should not have to leave their series to be promoted. I enjoyed being a secretary and helping staff. I never planned on doing
the kind of work I will be doing for the Navy. You should be able to grow in the career track you hired in, if you wish, or change if you wish. But
the limits placed on clerical staff is unfair. Biologists stay a biologist until they leave most often is it unreal to you that a secretary doesn't
want to be a computer staff or budget staff? Almost every clerical position in the Agency has been told to become one or the other if you want
a promotion. Skills and knowledge needed in the day-to-day function are lost so very often when that occurs.
In the past I have submitted a plan that the Department and Bureau of Reclamation created that would allow an upward career path for clerical
support positions. I just could never get it the attention that it deserved. This was done within the Department at some great effort. I
only suggested that it be used as an aid to the Agency.
Is it fair that biological staff are promoted to GS-11 supervisors with less than five years of Agency. Whereas there are clerks with more than ten
years of program knowledge and skills in regulations and process who cannot find a promotion over the grade of GS-5. These are staff members who often
train biologists on the processes of their work assignments. The very information that is not taught in college's, yet without that knowledge
there has been and will continue to be a great cost to the government, the American people, and the vary resources that you are tasked with working
for and protecting. I could have remained a GS-5 for many more years with the Agency, which is a hardship while living in southern California.
2. Better pay.
It is amazing that a clerk would or could not get promoted from within the agency has found promotions with other agency's. I myself will become a
GS7/9 in my new duties, with the Department of the Navy. Recently another departed employee became a GS-9 for Department of Agriculture. Both of us
came and worked the same office, and then had to leave for these promotions. Both of us were willing and eager employees who wanted to help
serve staff, this office and the agency perform better and to serve the American government to the best of our abilities. Lower levels of
employees have families whose needs must be met. If you dare check and see how many are single-parent homes who receive food stamps and other
assistance. I think as you go to sleep tonight you should consider how they live as you look around your home and then be glad that you don't live
as many lower level employees must. As stated before it is difficult to live as a GS-5 in southern California as it is also difficult to live at
such a pay grade in other parts of the United States.
3. Poor, degenerating working conditions.
The terrible and unbearable working conditions in the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office are known on so many levels of the Agency and the
Department of the Interior. Yet no one has corrected the situations that make it so. There are many problems within this office that cause
employees to be less effective in their duties and the mission of the agency. Many problems have been reported by various investigative means
and the number of EEO complaints filed with the EEOC. Those actions include but are not limited to: bullying, passing over experienced staff
for favorites who had no experience or so little, denying the same treatment and rule enforcement, denied training opportunities, denied work
opportunities and being subjected to unprofessional behavior. Much of this could have been addressed by the Department stepping in and
clearing up the situation. To take back control of an office where the poor managers have created and fostered a culture of this continuing abuse.
I predict that in the coming weeks as the filed complaints make their way through the legal processes much money will have to be paid in settlements
via lawsuits. This pass month the NO FEAR bill went before President Bush, which means instead of settlements coming from
the General Funds of the United States Treasury, that the Departments and Agencies will soon have to
bear the cost of these failings of management. With the US Fish and Wildlife Service's obligations that means less money for the resources.
Management of the Department and the Agency supported their selectees even when they knew that there those selectees were violating law, regulation or
process as outlined within the agency, not to mention just common decency in the treatment of an employee.
I blame and believe that much of the situation is a direct result of the development of the California/Nevada Office (CNO). This separation for the
organization is not productive to products or moral within the offices of the two states. The CNO was denied from being a regional office, by
congress. Yet it operates as if it was a regional office in its day-to-day operations. It costs Region 1 resource dollars for efforts that could and
had been done in the Portland Regional Office. Did the two states receive better service? Were the employees better served by this office? And most
importantly were the citizens of America better service? As employee that office only made me feel less served by my Regional Director and the
management of Region 1.
To correct these failings and conditions I suggest that someone be brought into this office, an official with the power and the ability to judge the
merits of each complaints impartially, the work conditions, and the products produced by this office, that someone should inquire does this
office give customer service to its clients. That person could probably resolve the many issues of this office and to hold managers and employees
accountable for their actions and misdeeds.
4. Poorly trained, and malicious supervisors, at my most recent duty station with the Agency.
Managers should have the training in labor laws and practices, and Occupational Health and Safety, and should be knowledgeable in human
behavior. The people that become managers were often poorly treated as they came through the system, and now it is their turn to get theirs! Just
because someone handled a problem one way ten or more years ago is little reason that reasonable and thoughtful people should continue that practice.
Their staff should rate managers - this would allow the managers to grow and to continue to be educated in what is really their job after all. This
agency takes super biologists and makes them managers so they can pay them more money for their knowledge. Yet few of these managers are equipped or
even have the nature to manage staff. As it was once explained to me - if a $5000 dollar computer walked out the
door, there would be such a ruckus. Nevertheless, let employees that you have trained walk out the door and we say or have done nothing about it. US
Fish and Wildlife employees are worth more than a $5000 dollar computer!
5. A lack of respect for the support positions.
When I joined the agency, I felt valued and respected. Yet most recently when I have asked for small changes to allow me to work better, I was
denied. With each denied request I felt I had lost support for my position. That I was just a servant to my betters. This is a terrible
change in status. Yet staff and managers bullied and ridiculed us for wanting to do more and to give more of ourselves. The WHY BOTHER attitude
of so many employees is and has been an obstacle I have had to work around for years. Yet here I was willing and wanting to be a part of this mission
and eager to do my part when I found myself overwhelmed and then all but forced to leave this agency. Being treated so unfairly this past year and
half is the reason on which I decided I had to leave the agency. I had served the Agency for more than 15 years, always supporting the agency
mission and so very loyal to those that I worked for, until I came to this office. I would have stayed and continued my support of this office,
region, and the agency if one person had given me the support and respect I needed.
6. Few chances to voice concerns and ideas.
There is no forum or place to submit ideas. There is an old saying that I find true. If you go to the well and it is dry and you go back a few more
times and it is still dry, you will soon quit going to that well. Giving an employee, some small act or acknowledgment can generate so much good will
and effort in the big push or project.
7. Inexperience staff being placed into supervisory positions.
In some offices there is a push to place younger and younger staff into positions of supervision, often passing over older and more experienced
staff. Why, because someone saw them as easier to work with. That practice and idea does not serve or create a culture for the good of the government,
where the best qualified person with the best skills and knowledge are hired into and maintained by the agency. That is taking the easy way out.
Go back a few years and check the number of lawsuits filed from errors. Most lawsuits in the pass were filed due to lack of products or a decision
made by a much higher up supervisor. But the current lawsuits are for errors made by staff not properly trained and not qualified to perform the
types of reviews and decision making that they are doing at this time. Maintaining experienced staff should be an order given to managers. The
awareness that lack of experience has had and will continue as a serious detrimental effect on the resources (money) and the public's perception of
the Department and the Agency.
Currently there are so many inexperienced staffs working on controversial packages and actions. These well-intended staff cannot do the work they
are not trained or skilled to do. The Agency will be challenged in courts and in the press and the Agency will lose repeatedly until you bring back
into the process those who know the courts and processes, that all work must be scrutinized by experienced staff. Before you force or run off the
next group of employees into retirement, at least try to learn from them. Ask them how did they do that listing package that was not challenged in
court. Let us benefit from their skills, knowledge and history before it walks out the door. Think of the time and money spent on training them.
Then decide what needs to be done to correct the mistakes of the last years.
8. My active EEO complaint, and the lack of effort that the Agency and the
Department have shown to settle the matter quickly and completely. I have an active EEO complaint. I have tried to work with Region 1's
management, who passed me off to CNO managers who gave no thought in aiding me, a long-term employee. I did try to work though the CNO, but found they
had no regard for me and not even the smallest desire to resolve my complaint. They dismissed me as so unimportant that they did not
investigate the situation, and only relied on the Field Supervisor's information. They knew that I had expressed concerns for my safety. The
only manager who listened and then followed through with my report was Deputy Field Supervisor, Catrinia Martin, who I have thanked for seeing to
my safety here at work.
Is it so inconceivable that we would need to have help from others in higher places from outside this office? Please know that managers abuse
their positions and as stated before do not know the laws, regulations or procedures too correctly to manage employees.
I will always support the agency that was my work home for more than fifteen years. I believe in the mission statement but honestly found
myself unable to support staff that is unwilling to support that statement. I have known of managers and staff that laughed as they took the money and
never understood they worked for the American people and the resources and not just their personal agendas. Those mangers and staff are the ones who
should be shamed, believe me they do exist within the Agency. I just hope that others like myself will point them out to those that can remove them
and put this Agency back on course. Let the honor return and those like myself will return. There is still so much good work that needs to be
done. A few bad employees and managers did not break me but sure made the special ones stand out as superior people.
I believe as FBI Whistle-blower Rowley that I have been employed by a bureau which is afflicted by careerism, timidity and bureaucratic bloat.
The field office that I am in has those conditions and a serious bullying situation which does not allow staff to complete work timely. There is a
log in the office that will show the high number of delays in assignments, and selected workload that is not responsive to budget line items, too much
time is spent on items that we are not given a budget for while those items we are given a budget for is ignored or just dismissed. Instead staff work
on pet projects' they or some manager likes, meaning that this office does not meet the priorities that congress is paying us to do. Routing sheets
and logs will show that staff has submitted many assignments in the allocated time frames, only to have those documents sit in supervisors in
boxes for weeks even months after they were submitted.
I also say that careerism is also a serious problem within the Agency, the current description is "promoting one's career over integrity," with staff
and managers making decisions primarily to win promotions, to avoid controversy or to please their superiors. The supervisors have begun to
choose newly hired staff over experienced staff due simply to the fact that they are easier to work with. This is not using and acquiring the best
staff with the highest levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities as they are directed to do so by the many regulations and rules, of fair hiring.
Will it have to take some serious embarrassment or the Director being hauled in front of a Congressional Committee to correct these failings of
the Agency. I hope not because there are some amazing minds in the agency.
The work is real and is needed. The number of lawsuits is also real, the need of the American people is very real, as is the need of the resources.
America and Americans should be better served by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Now I know this may be received as filled with rancor but it is not, it is an honest and open attempt to share with you why one long-term employee is
leaving the Agency. I would have loved to continue to serve as a secretary, instead I am changing my series and becoming an environmental
protection specialist, I loved being an Office Assistant and a Secretary, the work is needed. But no where in US Fish and Wildlife Service could I
have become a GS-9 in another year. This is also an attempt to bring the proper attention to the very serious issues in the Ventura Fish and
Wildlife Office. I want to see the good work continue there.
Nevertheless, I want my former co-workers to be treated well, and to be lead by the best and given a chance to do the fine work they are all
capably of in the coming days and years ahead.
To those that I have angered by this, let me say I was always available to talk to you, I even put myself forward several times in many of these
matters. I still care for this agency more than many, and I hope someday to return in a manner where I can fulfill my highest potential in serving
the American government. Forgive me for taking this time and method to express myself, I do it truly in the spirit that we are told should exist
on the exit interview questionnaire, to be of help in improving working conditions for other employees.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. Still, a Federal Employee serving the American people.
Debbie Kilpatrick nee' James
US Fish and Wildlife Service