The leader of the federal workforce resigned suddenly on Tuesday, as panic over the novel coronavirus stirred nationwide disruptions to work life.
Dale Cabaniss quit her post as chief of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the massive department that oversees human resources for government workers, The Hill reported. The departure comes at a particularly inopportune time, as laborers in the public and private sectors adjust to life under COVID-19.
“OPM has received the resignation of OPM Director Dale Cabaniss and OPM Deputy Director Michael Rigas is Acting Director, Office of Personnel Management,” an department spokesperson confirmed in a statement.
Federal personnel manager quits
Cabaniss was reportedly driven to leave her job of six months over personality clashes, according to Politico. The career civil service official complained about poor treatment from John McEntee, the 29-year old official at the Presidential Personnel Office tasked with recruiting appointees for the Trump administration, and Paul Dans, a lawyer and the new White House liaison to OPM.
Anonymous sources complained about both men to Politico, describing them as inexperienced and too loyal to Trump. Staffers at OPM said that Dans, who has the job of filling vacancies at the agency, is a person “with some kind of agenda” and not much experience in civil service.
Another point of contention has been McEntee’s hiring of college seniors with experience working for the Trump campaign to fill government posts. (Imagine, a president with loyal staffers?) He selected a third college student, John Troup Hemenway, to work with the deputy of the Presidential Personnel Office on filling open Pentagon posts.
“If these reports are true, then the Trump administration’s mismanagement and political appointees have once again brought chaos to the federal workforce,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee, said in a statement. “At the very moment we need OPM to operate smoothly and efficiently, including expanding telework for all eligible workers and contractors, we are instead faced with uncertainty that threatens to paralyze this agency.”
Workforce faces COVID-19
Cabaniss was confirmed to the post in September by the Senate in a 54-38 vote.
A civil service veteran, Cabaniss previously worked for another independent agency, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, under President George W. Bush. She has also worked as a Republican staff director.
Her departure comes as Americans brace for layoffs, furloughs, and general uncertainty over the COVID-19 outbreak, The Hill notes. The Trump administration has floated drastic measures to provide economic relief for vulnerable workers, including sending direct checks to Americans, according to Politico.
Fears of a recession have picked up as businesses from brick-and-mortar stores to airlines suffer from a drop in consumer activity, with Americans staying home — either voluntarily or by government mandate — all over the country, from San Francisco to New York City. Various local governments nationwide have ordered bars and restaurants closed.
Even as private sector workers are sent home, the federal government’s workforce of roughly 2.1 million has received mixed messages from senior officials, according to The Washington Post. Cabaniss, who oversaw labor policy for the government’s entire payroll, may have been frustrated with a lack of clear guidelines on handling the coronavirus outbreak, the paper said.