Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has asked the Office of the Special Counsel to investigate how Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Deputy Director Leandra English was “hastily approved” for a permanent civil service job at the agency, having previously been a political appointee at the Office of Personnel Management.
Johnson, who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, alleged that the Office of Personnel Management engaged in “a flawed vetting process,” that allowed English’s conversion to the CFPB job.
“It appears that [the Office of Personnel Management] hastily approved Ms. English’s conversion in the waning days of the Obama administration based on information that included errors, potential conflicts of interest, and insufficient independent verification,” Johnson wrote in a four-page letter to Henry Kerner, the special counsel in the Office of Special Counsel.
English caused an uproar last year when she sued President Trump and acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney just two days after being chosen by former CFPB Director Richard Cordray to lead the agency when Cordray abruptly resigned in November.
Cordray’s surprise move caused confusion when English and Mulvaney both claimed to be the legal acting head of the CFPB until a judge approved Mulvaney’s appointment last month. English still works at the CFPB and her legal battle is ongoing.
Johnson requested information on English’s conversion, a practice also known as “burrowing,” in which a non-career political appointee converts to a career position outside of the competitive hiring process.
“Burrowing threatens to undermine the merit-based principles that serve as the foundation of the civil service because it allows political staff to be favored over potentially more qualified candidates,” Johnson wrote.
English was named chief of staff to Cordray in January 2017 and previously had been the principal deputy chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management.
Johnson claims that the Office of Personnel Management erroneously identified the CFPB position that English was converting to as that of chief operating officer with an $11,000 salary increase, when the opening was for a chief of staff in the office of the CFPB director with a $43,000 rise in salary. The CFPB only amended the paperwork errors after English’s appointment, Johnson wrote.
Johnson wrote that English was selected for the CFPB job “outside of the announced timeline.”
The Office of Personnel Management completed a review of English’s conversion in seven days and her paperwork passed through four levels of staff reviews in two weeks before it was approved, Johnson wrote.
In addition, he claims there was a potential conflict of interest in the selection of English for the job because she had previously worked for Chris D’Angelo, the CFPB’s associate director for supervision, enforcement and fair lending, who had previously been Cordray’s chief of staff.
“Mr. D’Angelo’s move to another position within [the] CFPB created the vacancy into which Ms. English burrowed,” Johnson wrote. “Mr. D’Angelo served on the interview panels that ultimately resulted in Ms. English’s selection. While OPM asserts that his comments of Ms. English were in-line with other interviewers, it is impossible to ascertain the influence he may have had on the selection process.”
The Office of Special Counsel investigates hiring decisions based on political affiliation, which can be a violation of civil service laws, Johnson claims.