KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO and AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2263, AFL-CIO
OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGES
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20424-0001
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2263, AFL-CIO
Case No. DA-CA-30136
Steven Sherwood, Esquire
For the Respondent
Charlotte A. Dye, Esquire
Susan E. Jelen, Esquire
For the General Counsel
Ms. Sandra Maturo
For the Charging Party
Before: WILLIAM B. DEVANEY
Administrative Law Judge
Statement of the Case
This proceeding, under the Federal Service Labor-Management
Relations Statute, Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the United States Code,
5 U.S.C. § 7101, et seq.(1), and the Rules
and Regulations issued thereunder, 5 C.F.R. 2423.1, et seq., concerns whether an
employee was questioned, and if questioned, about a pending Merit
Systems Protection Board case in which the employee was to be a
witness for the Union, was the questioning a formal discussion,
within the meaning of § 14(a)(2)(A) of the Statute, at which the
Union was entitled to notice and the opportunity to be
This case was initiated by a charge filed on October 30,
1992, alleging violations of §§ 16(a)(1), (5) and (8) of the
Statute (G.C. Exh. 1(a)). The Complaint and Notice of Hearing
issued on December 23, 1993 (G.C. Exh. 1(c)) alleged violation of
§§ 16(a)(1) and (8) only and set the hearing for a date and
location to be determined later. By Orders dated March 2 and 12,
1994, the hearing in this, and other cases, was set for April 11,
1994, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (G.C. Exhs. 1(e) and (f)) and by
Order dated April 4, 1994 (G.C. Exh. 1(g)) was rescheduled for
April 12, 1994, pursuant to which a hearing was duly held on April
12, 1994, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before the undersigned. All
parties were represented at the hearing, were afforded full
opportunity to be heard, to introduce evidence bearing on the
issues involved, and were afforded the opportunity to present oral
argument which each party waived. At the conclusion of the hearing,
May 12, 1994, was fixed as the date for mailing post-hearing
briefs, which time was subsequently extended, on motion of
Respondent, to which the other parties did not object, for good
cause shown, to June 12, 1994. Respondent and General Counsel each
timely mailed an excellent brief, received on, or before, June 17,
1994, which have been carefully considered. Upon the basis of the
entire record, including my observation of the witnesses and their
demeanor, I make the following findings and conclusions:
Seldom has the testimony of witnesses been more divergent
and so little effort made to temper the testimony of any
Mr. Patrick Turrieta is a WG-5 materials handler in
Respondent's Base Supply (Tr. 10). It is not disputed that Mr.
Richard Lowe, Employee Relations Specialist, Civilian Personnel
Office (Tr. 46), called Mr. Turrieta's supervisor and told him to
have Mr. Turrieta report to his, Lowe's, office on the afternoon of
October 19, 1992, to be questioned about his testimony in the
upcoming MSPB case of Mr. Wayne Parker, and that Mr. Turrieta did
report to Mr. Lowe's office on October 19 as instructed (Tr. 11-12;
47). There was no agreement on anything else.
Mr. Turrieta testified that his supervisor, Mr. Pete Panana,
came to his, Turrieta's, office on October 18, 1992, and told him
he was, ". . . required to go over to the Employee Management
office . . . to see Mr. Richard Lowe at EMR office, Employment
Management" (Tr. 11-12) and that Mr. Panana, ". . . told me that
him [Lowe] and Mr. Elder wanted to ask me question (sic) regarding
to the upcoming MSPB case." (Tr. 12), i.e.,
the MSPB case of Mr. Parker (Tr. 14). Mr. Lowe didn't recall
whether he called Mr. Panana or Mr. Kernegay (Tr. 54). In any
event, Mr. Panana was not called as a witness so that Mr.
Turrieta's testimony that Mr. Panana came to his, Turrieta's,
office and told him that Mr. Lowe and Mr. Elder wanted to question
him is undenied. Mr. Turrieta testified that, not knowing where Mr.
Lowe's office was located, he called Mr. Lowe (Tr. 13). Mr. Lowe
couldn't recall whether Mr. Turrieta called him before the
interview (Tr. 48), accordingly, as Mr. Lowe offered no rebuttal,
Mr. Turrieta's testimony, that Mr. Lowe, after telling him where he
was located, said, ". . . that him and Pat Elder needed to ask me a
few question (sic) before the upcoming MSPB hearing . . ." (Tr.
13), is also undenied. Mr. Turrieta testified that when he got to
the meeting, Mr. Lowe, ". . . said that I was there to answer some
questions that him and Mr. Elder were (sic) ask me, to help me
refresh memory was the term he used for the upcoming hearing." (Tr.
14).(2) If, as it would appear
(note, further his testimony in n.2), Mr. Turrieta said that Mr.
Lowe and Mr. Elder wanted to refresh Mr. Turrieta's memory, this
would be a strange statement for Respondent to have made. Mr. Lowe
testified, "When he came to the office I told him that I wanted to
discuss his testimony. [Later, Mr. Lowe amplified this statement a
bit and testified, that before Mr. Turrieta's call, "The only thing
I told him was that he had been identified as a witness to discuss
leave procedures and practices in base supply and that's what I
wanted to talk to him about." (Tr. 50) (see, also, Tr. 57)]. Mr.
Turrieta said that he wanted his representative present. I told him
to go ahead and call the representative and he made a telephone
call. We proceeded to sit and wait for the representative to appear
. . ." (Tr. 49).
Mr. Turrieta testified he made no call from Mr. Lowe's
office (Tr. 26). Mr. Turrieta testified, "He asked general
questions at first. He asked me if I knew the employee that was
going to be at the MSPB case. He asked me if I had worked in the
same section with the employee, Mr. Parker, how long I had known
Mr. Parker. Let's see, he asked something about if I was aware of
the incident that caused the hearing and I told him I wasn't there
the day that that happened. Let's see, he asked if I were aware of
the leave policies within the area, pickup and delivery was the
section that he was talking about, and, I told him that I was and
they were not really in accordance with the regs, how they ran
things, general questions of that type, he asked." (Tr. 14-15). In
the midst of this, Mr. Turrieta said, ". . . I didn't see them
taking any notes . . . and I thought if I'm there to provide
information I thought somebody had to. So I asked them, I said,
'Aren't you supposed to have somebody take information down.' . . .
He said he would take down the information." (Tr. 15).
Mr. Lowe testified that he asked no questions before Mr.
Turrieta made his call about Mr. Turrieta's testimony as a witness
and none after he made his call (Tr. 50-51).
Mr. Turrieta testified that Mr. Lowe repeatedly tried to get
Mr. Elder on the telephone (Tr. 16). Mr. Lowe testified that at no
time during the meeting did he try to contact Mr. Elder, (Tr. 55);
indeed, that he did not call Mr. Elder until after Mr. Turrieta had
left (Tr. 51). Mr. Turrieta stated that when Mr. Lowe asked him if
Mr. Parker was a racist (Tr. 16), he felt uncomfortable and asked,
". . . if there was a rule or regulation that allowed him to
question me" (Tr. 17); that Mr. Lowe said there wasn't a regulation
(Tr. 17) and that he, Turrieta, ". . . told him at that point that
if that was the case, I preferred not to answer any more questions
until we got to the hearing. . . ." (Tr. 17). Mr. Turrieta said
they then talked about jogging and running (Tr. 17, 18) but after
that, Mr. Lowe started to ask questions in regard to the MSPB
report and he, Turrieta, said, "You've already told me that I don't
have to be here and this is voluntary and I prefer to answer any
questions when we get to the hearing." (Tr. 18). Mr. Turrieta
stated that, "I told him at that point, I probably needed to get
back to work" (Tr. 18) and he left. Mr. Lowe denied he asked if Mr.
Parker was a racist, indeed that "We didn't discuss Mr. Parker . .
. Not at all." (Tr. 51). Mr. Lowe testified that while they waited
for a Union representative to arrive after Mr. Turrieta's telephone
call he and Mr. Turrieta talked about sports, physical fitness,
aerobics (he said he knew Mr. Turrieta was an aerobics instructor)
(Tr. 49-50); that after waiting 20 to 30 minutes, he, Lowe, said,
"It doesn't look like anybody is coming, so it's time to go back to
work." (Tr. 58). Mr. Turrieta said the meeting lasted, ". . . about
an hour, an hour and a half as I recall." (Tr. 18) while Mr. Lowe
said, ". . . twenty to thirty minutes. . . ." (Tr. 58).
Mr. Turrieta testified that Mr. Lowe called him on October
20; Mr. Lowe denied that he spoke to Mr. Turrieta after October
19th (Tr. 59). Mr. Turrieta stated that he reported his interview
to Mr. W. Patrick O'Connor, in October 1992, Trustee of Local 2263
(Tr. 31), at the Union office (Tr. 20); but Mr. O'Connor's best
recollection was that it was by telephone to him at his office in
Denver, Colorado (Tr. 37). Mr. O'Connor stated that he called Mr.
Lowe (Tr. 32); but Mr. Lowe testified that he never talked to Mr.
O'Connor at any time on the telephone. (Tr. 52).
Mr. Turrieta had adamantly insisted that he was told on
October 18, 1992, the day before the meeting, to report to Mr.
Lowe's office on the 19th. He had so stated in his December 1992,
affidavit (Tr. 27, 29), and at the hearing (Tr. 29); but on
redirect, when General Counsel realized that October 18 had been a
Sunday when Mr. Turrieta did not work (Tr. 25, 28), Mr. Turrieta
was then uncertain whether it was Friday the 16th or the morning of
the 19th (Tr. 29).(3) Mr. Turrieta
said, as noted above, that Mr. Lowe asked him if Mr. Parker was a
racist; he said Mr. Elder asked him the same question at the
hearing (Tr. 26); but later said that no, it had been Mr. O'Connor
who asked that question at the hearing (Tr. 30) (Mr. Elder
testified that he made no inquiry of Mr. Turrieta during his
testimony about Mr. Parker being a racist (Tr. 66)).
In some respects, I did not find Mr. Turrieta's testimony
convincing at all. For example, while his testimony that Mr. Lowe
asked if he knew Mr. Parker; if he was aware of the incident that
caused the hearing, to which Mr. Turrieta said he wasn't there the
day it had happened; and if he were aware of the leave policies in
the pick up and delivery section, to which Mr. Turrieta replied
that he was, appear wholly genuine and his testimony as indicated
is fully credited. But his testimony that Mr. Lowe repeatedly tried
to get Mr. Elder on the telephone appears contrived and was not
convincing. Mr. Lowe may very well have said something to the
effect that Mr. Elder wanted him, Lowe, to ask Turrieta some
questions about his, Turrieta's, testimony, but, under Mr.
Turrieta's scenario, Mr. Lowe having made the inquiry, trying to
locate Mr. Elder makes little sense, nor the delay in Mr. Elder's
appearance as an implied cause for the hiatus in the interview. Mr.
Turrieta's professed uncomfortable feeling, his asserted inquiry if
there was a rule or regulation that allowed Mr. Lowe to question
him, his assertion that after he told Mr. Lowe he preferred not to
answer any more questions they talked about jogging and running,
and that he, Turrieta told Mr. Lowe that he, Turrieta, probably
needed to get back to work, is wholly unconvincing and is not
credited. On the other hand, Mr. Lowe's testimony that when he,
Lowe, told Mr. Turrieta he wanted to talk to him about leave
procedures and practices, Mr. Turrieta said he wanted a Union
representative; that Mr. Lowe told Mr. Turrieta to go ahead and
call; that Mr. Turrieta did call someone and signified that someone
would show up soon; that they then waited for a Union
representative to show up and, while waiting, talked about sports,
physical fitness and aerobics; that he, Lowe, asked Mr. Turrieta no
questions about his testimony either before or after Mr. Turrieta
made his telephone call; and that after waiting for twenty to
thirty minutes, he, Mr. Lowe, said, in effect, that it didn't look
like anyone was coming so it was time to go back to work, is far
more convincing, is consistent with the record and is fully
credited. Thus, for example, both testified that there was a hiatus
in the interview during which they engaged in small talk. That they
did so while they waited for a Union representative to arrive, as
Mr. Lowe testified, makes sense; but that they did so after Mr.
Turrieta had said he didn't want to answer any more questions is
not logical or convincing. Mr. Turrieta's statement, "Aren't you
supposed to have somebody take information down" and Mr. Turrieta's
statement that Mr. Lowe said he would take down the information, is
more consistent with future action, i.e.,
that Mr. Lowe had not yet asked and he, Turrieta, had not yet
provided information. Mr. Lowe testified he asked no questions
about Mr. Turrieta's testimony and he told Mr. Elder that he wasn't
able to get any information (Tr. 51) and Mr. Elder confirmed that
Mr. Lowe told him they did not discuss the Parker case (Tr. 66);
that he hadn't been able to get any information from Turrieta about
the leave procedure (Tr. 69), which, in turn, supports Mr. Lowe's
testimony that he didn't ask about Mr. Turrieta's testimony. Mr.
Elder credibly testified that he had Mr. Lowe interview Mr.
Turrieta about leave policies (Tr. 68) which is consistent with Mr.
Lowe's testimony that he told Mr. Turrieta he wanted to talk to him
about leave procedures and practices. Moreover, Mr. Turrieta's
testimony in other respects was not correct.
The Authority has made it clear that interviews by agency representatives with bargaining unit employees in preparation for third-party proceedings, including MSPB proceedings, are formal discussions. Veterans Administration Medical Center, Long Beach, California, 41 FLRA 1370, 1379 (1991), enf'd subnom., The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Long Beach, California v. FLRA, 16 F.3d 1526 (9th Cir. 1994); United States Immigration and Natu