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Curran v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 6, 2019

KENNETH P. CURRAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Kenneth Curran brought this action against defendant United States Postal Service (USPS) under the Freedom of Information Act, alleging that USPS improperly withheld documents responsive to his request for records. (ECF No. 1.) USPS moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (ECF No. 20.) In connection with his response to USPS's motion, Curran filed an unopposed motion for in camera review of records. (ECF No. 25; see ECF No. 28 at 3.) The court will grant that motion. All parties have consented to the full jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. (ECF Nos. 4, 5.) USPS's motion for summary judgment is ready for resolution.

         BACKGROUND

         Curran is employed as an electronic technician in the maintenance department of USPS's Processing and Distribution Center in Madison, Wisconsin. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 2; ECF No. 24 at 2.) Curran has repeatedly observed co-workers sleeping and using government computers for non-work-related internet use. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 7.)

         On November 11, 2015, Curran submitted a formal complaint to the USPS Office of Inspector General, alleging waste and abuse by maintenance employees at the Madison Processing and Distribution Center. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 8; see ECF No. 1-1.) On December 24, 2015, Plant Manager Gary Kaiser met with Curran to discuss his complaint. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 12.) At the end of the meeting, Kasier assured Curran that the matter would be looked into. (Id.)

         An audit team from the Office of Inspector General arrived at the Madison Processing and Distribution Center the week of March 21-25, 2016. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 14.) Curran provided the team with information regarding employees sleeping on the job, internet usage, government equipment taken out of the facility, and a hard drive being wiped clean. (Id.)

         On September 27, 2016, the Office of Inspector General released a public audit report following an investigation of Curran's complaints. (See ECF No. 1-3.) The report concluded that the “Madison [Processing and Distribution Center] maintenance management did not effectively manage overtime for the 13 electronic technicians” that were investigated as part of the report. (Id. at 2.)

As a result, the Postal Service incurred unnecessary overtime and penalty overtime costs of $214, 155 during [Fiscal Years] 2014 and 2015. Additionally, … management can potentially save at least $107, 078 for [Fiscal Year] 2016, by reducing electronic technicians' overtime and penalty overtime by 58 percent to achieve the average overtime usage of electronic technicians at comparable facilities.

(Id. at 4.) The audit report specifically addressed internet usage:

Five of the 13 electronic technicians (or 38 percent) had an average daily Internet use of between 24 and 66 minutes, which exceeded the 18-minute daily average Internet use of the 13 electronic technicians combined.
Two of the five electronic technicians far exceeded the average, one with 66 daily average minutes (266 percent above) and one with 49 daily average minutes (172 percent above) and had excessive Internet usage instances ranging from about 170 to 250 minutes. These two electronic technicians also visited a significantly higher volume of non-work related sites, consisting of various news, sport, social media, and retail websites. Compared to the other 11 electronic technicians, one had above average overtime and penalty overtime usage both overall and during the weekends.
The remaining three electronic technicians exceeded the daily average, ranging from 24 minutes (33 percent above) to 28 minutes (56 percent above) and had excessive Internet usage instances ranging from 105 to 162 minutes. They visited several non-work related sites on either a Saturday or Sunday, when supervisors were not present. All three technicians had above average overtime and penalty overtime use while one of those three technicians had above average overtime during the weekends.

(ECF No. 1-3 at 12-13.) “These incidents occurred because maintenance supervisors did not monitor employees' computer usage.” (Id. at 13.)

         The report recommended in part that Acting District Manager, Lakeland District, Deborah Woodrum instruct maintenance management to “[d]evelop and implement a process to monitor Maintenance personnel's personal use of Postal Service computers during workhours to ensure compliance with the established policy for Internet usage.” (ECF No. 1-3 at 16.) With regard to that recommendation, Woodrum responded:

Management agrees, in part, with this recommendation. Madison management is not able to install any type of monitoring software on the computer systems. However, we are developing an observation log that will be used by all management personnel in the [Madison Processing and Distribution Center] to observe and document what activities the [electronic technicians] are engaged in at random intervals during all tours and workdays. The Acting District Manager will send out messaging to the entire District re-iterating the policy for limited personal usage of postal equipment and internet usage.

(Id. at 24-25.)

         Curran alleges that the misconduct continues unchecked. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 20.) He submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to USPS's Manager Records Office on April 2, 2017:

I request the following records for Madison Processing & Distribution Center … from December 24, 2015 to present.
1) All records relating to non-postal websites accessed by maintenance employees, including electronics technicians and maintenance management. USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) provided these records to Acting Lakeland District Manager Debbie Woodrum for rebuttal of Audit Report HR-AR-16-005. The records should include but not be limited to OIG's 2016 audit/investigation, daily logs of internet usage referenced on page 15 of the Audit Report HR-AR-16-005, and OIG complaint filed on December 11, 2016.
2) Request all records relating to USPS employees in the Maintenance Department being walked out of the building in April of 2016. Lakeland District most likely ordered this action as a result of OIG's onsite audit in March of 2016.
3) Request all records relating to USPS employees sleeping at Madison Processing & Distribution Center which should include photographs. Lakeland District PO Box 5000 Milwaukee, WI ...

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