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BPA Shakeup in Wake of Alleged Hiring Misdeeds

There has been a management shakeup at the Bonneville Power Administration. The U.S. Department of Energy replaced BPA's agency head and chief operating officer without explanation.

The move came just before the release Tuesday morning of a damaging inspector general report.

You won't find BPA's name on the masthead of your electricity bill, but the federal agency probably has a big role in keeping your lights on. Bonneville is this region's biggest wholesale electricity and transmission supplier.

BPA employees were notified by email late Monday that a new administrator is in charge on an interim basis. The email didn't say what happened to previous BPA chief Bill Drummond.

But then the other shoe dropped.

The inspector general at the U.S. Energy Department released an alert that says BPA personnel managers manipulated the job hiring process to deny military veterans the preference they were entitled to. These alleged misdeeds took place between November 2010 and June 2012.

Further, it says BPA retaliated against staff who cooperated with the inspector general's investigation. A BPA spokesman referred all questions to Energy Department headquarters.

There, spokeswoman Niketa Kumar said, "The Energy Department cannot comment on personnel matters." She did, however, point to the department's official response to the inspector general's report.

The published response, written by the Energy Department's chief human capital officer, directs the interim BPA administrator to immediately convey to all employees "that they can cooperate freely" with investigators without fear of retaliation.

The Energy Department memo also indicated that headquarters is forming "a management review team to send to BPA." It pledges to "quickly and constructively resolve all the issues" identified by the inspector general.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, said in a statement that he is "encouraged by the fact the administration is taking these allegations seriously."

"The veterans preference in federal hiring is non-negotiable, and retribution against whistleblowers in any way, shape or form that affects hiring veterans cannot be tolerated," Wyden said.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

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