A federal judge has ruled that documents relating to potential conflicts of interest on the part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy must be handed over to the government watchdog group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). CREW sued the U.S. Postal Service for the documents after the agency did not comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for the materials from the group. Now, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates has concluded that there is a “strong public interest” at play in the situation, ruling in favor of CREW.
As CREW summarizes the issue in a press release, “Over the past seven years, the USPS has reportedly paid approximately $286 million to XPO Logistics, DeJoy’s ex-employer, and has “ramped up its business” with the company since DeJoy’s appointment as Postmaster General.” DeJoy worked as a supply chain chief executive at XPO Logistics from 2014 to 2015, which followed that company’s purchase of New Breed Logistics, which DeJoy led for decades as the company’s CEO. The millions upon millions of dollars moving from the Postal Service to XPO Logistics presents a clear opportunity for a potential conflict of interest, since DeJoy now leads the Postal Service, placing him at the helm of dishing that money out.
CREW further explains that, following his appointment as Postmaster General, DeJoy “continued to hold financial interests in XPO totaling between $30 and $75 million,” adding that he “also held a significant amount of stock in Amazon, a major USPS competitor.” Again, his financial and personal ties to XPO Logistics — and Amazon! — could present opportunities for conflicts of interest to affect the operations of the U.S. Postal Service, which, in theory, should be treated as a public service rather than some kind of private brokerage operation. Now that Judge Bates has ruled in favor of delivering the sought after documents to CREW, concerned observers have a chance to examine key details of the situation.
DeJoy has faced steep criticism for his handling of the Postal Service since taking charge. Significant slowdowns have been recorded on his watch, and plans that he has unrolled for the Postal Service’s near future call for baking some slowdowns right into the agency’s ordinary operations for the sake of cutting costs. While these purposeful slowdowns do not affect all pieces of mail, broader slowdowns in service could have seriously damaging impacts. All sorts of critical items move through the Postal Service system, from medications to, in certain periods, mail-in ballots. The Postal Service appears to have — broadly speaking — handled mail-in ballots effectively last year, but whether such is the case should not be an open question!