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Angry Congressmen Press Postal Governors to Testify

Times Staff Writer

To avert a confrontation with angry congressmen, the U.S. Postal Board of Governors agreed Friday to attend a House hearing next week instead of going to Denver for a closed meeting of its own.

The governors had intended to meet Wednesday in Denver to consider a successor to departing Postmaster General Albert V. Casey, but Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, objected and threatened to subpoena the board if members did not attend his hearing to answer questions about a continuing postal scandal involving charges of contract-steering.

Ford and other congressmen complained that no new postmaster general should be hired until several investigations of the Postal Service have been resolved.

Announced Personnel Meeting

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A congressional source said Ford felt “the air should be cleared before a new postmaster general is chosen. He wants to know what the devil is going on over there.”

Last Wednesday, the board announced in the Federal Register that the Denver meeting “will concern a discussion of personnel matters.” When he discovered that the board would attempt to hire a new postal chief, Ford fired off a Thursday night telegram to board members, saying he wanted them to “testify under oath” on postal and board operations.

The telegram instructed board members to respond before noon Monday, “otherwise a subpoena will be issued requiring your appearance.”

After a flurry of telephone calls among board members, a collective decision was made to attend the hearing.

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Quick Response Expected

Explaining the governors’ change of plans, David F. Harris, secretary of the board, said: “When a chairman of a full committee requests your presence, you accept the invitation with alacrity.”

In an interview, Rep. Robert Garcia (D-N.Y.), a committee member and frequent critic of the board, called the governors “an insensitive group. When we made the board the ruling body we did it to take politics out of the process. They’re more political than Congress.”

Among Garcia’s complaints is the board’s firing in January of Paul N. Carlin, Casey’s predecessor. Carlin, a career employee, was ousted because he did not move quickly enough to streamline the $29-billion agency, which suffered a $251-million deficit in fiscal 1985.

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Casey, former chairman of Dallas-based American Airlines and also a former president of Times Mirror Co., publisher of The Times and other newspapers, was brought in as an interim postmaster general and has announced he is leaving Aug. 15.

‘Grave Allegations’ Cited

In February, six House members cited “grave allegations” that Casey was hired because the board thought he would be able to steer a $250-million contract for ZIP code reading machines to a Dallas firm. Casey has denied the allegations. Amid these charges, the board’s former vice chairman, Peter E. Voss, recently pleaded guilty to embezzlement and accepting at least $20,000 in illegal payoffs from John Gnau Associates, a Michigan public relations firm that represents the Dallas computer company, Recognition Equipment Inc. The contracts are still pending.


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