- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

The inspector general of the post office wastes money on "team-building" retreats and intimidates staffers who don't embrace her management style, according to written complaints sent to Sen. Charles E. Grassley.
Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, confirmed to The Washington Times that his office has received more than 50 complaints from current and former auditors and investigators about Postal Inspector General Karla W. Corcoran.
"I've received information alleging problems in the postal inspector general's office," Mr. Grassley said in a written statement. "These allegations include the waste of agency dollars, employee intimidation and operational inefficiency. These allegations are troubling. An inspector general's office should be above reproach to function effectively as an agency watchdog. I'm looking into the allegations."
Mr. Grassley, who is poised to take over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in January, is still investigating, said a Republican aide familiar with the matter. The senator plans to send Mrs. Corcoran a letter with detailed questions about the charges.
Mrs. Corcoran said she is aware of the complaints, but doesn't know many details.
"Based on what we know, there's nothing that we can't explain," Mrs. Corcoran said. "If there are problems pointed out to us by Senator Grassley, we'll fix it."
Mrs. Corcoran defended her "values-oriented" management style, saying it helps foster teamwork and efficiency. The values are called "TLC3," which stands for Teamwork, Leadership, Creativity, Communication and Conceptualization.
Deputy Auditor General Tom Coogan said the values training takes up "maybe 5 percent" of staff time.
In an interview with The Times on Saturday, Mrs. Corcoran said she does not intimidate staffers.
"I'm a passionate person, but I don't hold grudges," Mrs. Corcoran said, explaining that anyone who feels intimidated is misreading her intentions. "I honestly wish I had another personality but it's just not me."
A former senior investigator for the inspector general's office, however, said that "public floggings are commonplace over there."
"There are too many people who think this is wrong, and it needs to be stopped," the former staffer said.
Current and former employees also say too much time and money is spent on team-building.
"[Mrs. Corcoran] had the staff building gingerbread houses and going on leadership retreats to learn the values of teamwork," said a former staffer, who has since moved to a similar job in another government agency.
At a retreat two years ago in Ocean City, "she had us out there building sand castles on the beach in November," she said.
A Senate aide who has seen some of the documents forwarded to Mr. Grassley said Mrs. Corcoran hired a production company to film events, such as an annual meeting that feted employees who excelled at the "values."
Several such sessions cost the inspector general's office "tens of thousands of dollars" each, the aide said. Pictures and videos of such events have reportedly been shared with Mr. Grassley's office.
Mrs. Corcoran says values training has contributed to a successful inspector general's office.
"There will always be naysayers," she said. "I like this agency. I think it's got a lot going for it. I think it's got some detractors, and I think those detractors will do absolutely anything to tear it down."
Mrs. Corcoran has been the inspector general of the post office since the position was created in 1997. The department's 2002 budget was $117 million. Before taking the position, she served on then-Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government. Inspectors general serve seven-year terms.

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