CoA Institute questions role of former Obama appointee on the Department of Veterans Affairs Presidential transition team

Washington, DC – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today sent two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, one to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and one to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), seeking records on what has become an election-year tradition in Washington D.C.: political appointees at federal agencies attempting to transition to permanent career positions. This practice, commonly referred to as “burrowing,” often entails political employees gaining unfair advantage and using their connections to obtain permanent positions.
Cause of Action Institute Vice President John Vecchione: “Selecting permanent federal government employees based on ideology instead of qualifications is a disservice to American taxpayers and results in less qualified civil servants. Burrowing also provides the outgoing presidential administration the ability to place ideological allies within the federal government permanently, creating a more politicized bureaucracy. American taxpayers have a right to know how many Obama administration political appointees are gaming the system and attempting to transition to permanent positions.”
In an effort to curtail burrowing, OPM in 2009 began requiring any agency attempting to appoint current or former political appointees to a competitive, career position to first obtain approval from OPM. However, it is unclear how often agencies request waivers or how often waivers are granted.
Attempts to burrow during the final year of the Obama administration have already come to light. In the FOIA sent today, CoA Institute has requested records relating to an Obama administration appointee burrowed at the VA.  Gina Farrisee was first appointed by the Obama administration to serve as the VA’s Assistant Human Resources Secretary in September 2013. Nearly three years later, on May 2, 2016, the VA announced that Ms. Farrisee was being named the VA’s Deputy Chief of Staff, a permanent career position.
Ms. Farrisee is also apparently a key member of the VA White House transition team that is preparing the agency for the next administration and that she, together with a current political appointee, will be managing the transition process at the VA.  It therefore appears that the top two roles on the VA transition team are led by current or former political appointees, raising questions about the transparency of that process. CoA Institute accordingly has requested all records relating to Ms. Farrisee’s role on the VA Presidential transition team.
The FOIA to OPM can be found HERE
The FOIA to VA can be found HERE
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