Rep. Jim Bates (D-San Diego) said Monday that he has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the U. S. Postal Service and pay "particular attention to San Diego County post offices."
Since the Aug. 10 shooting rampage in which an Escondido postal worker killed two co-workers before fatally wounding himself, Bates said, he has received hundreds of calls from people in the county and across the country "demanding that something be done about the Postal Service."
"Recent developments in San Diego have brought the issue of San Diego County postal employee harassment and unusual job stress to the forefront of the news," Bates wrote in a letter to Charles A. Bowsher, comptroller general of the United States.
"Several months ago, I was made aware of the distinct possibility that there are serious problems with the management style of San Diego's postal division," the letter continued. "It has become apparent that high stress and frustration is prevalent among postal workers in San Diego."
Slayings, Suicides Cited
Bates also called for the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee's subcommittee on investigations, chaired by Rep. William D. Ford (D-Mich.), to launch an inquiry into the management practices of San Diego County Postmaster Margaret Sellers. Bates cited four suicides and two slayings that have occurred among San Diego County postal workers in 1989.
"It's welcomed, no problem," Sellers' spokesman, Mike Cannone, said of a possible investigation. "Margaret will cooperate fully. She welcomes any investigation initiated by Congress or the Postal Service. She feels confident that there is nothing to fear."
John Worthy, vice president of the La Mesa branch of the National Assn. of Letter Carriers, said that Bates had received a petition bearing the signatures of 245 disgruntled employees who work for the Postal Service in San Diego County. Sellers oversees 6,600 postal employees in the county and about 5,000 more in Riverside, Imperial and San Bernardino counties.
"It shows that a majority of the postal workers in the county do not agree with Sellers' claim, which was quoted in the local press, that 99% of county postal workers love their jobs," Worthy said.
Bates said that he was concerned that the growth of the county and fiscal restrictions on the Postal Service had created an "intolerable situation." He said he hoped the inquiry would focus in part on postal routes and why many have not been realigned, despite booming growth throughout Southern California.
"I'm not saying the suicides and murders are directly related to these problems, but the suicides might be," Bates said. "Even if they're not, an investigation would help bring focus to problems that need to be looked at, and soon.
"My hope is that an inquiry will demonstrate that budget freezes have not allowed the Postal Service in one of the country's fastest-growing counties to do the job that needs to be done," Bates said. "Maybe some exemptions or waivers (in the budget of the Postal Service) would help deal with that. My attempt is not to undermine management morale or worker morale. I just want to get to the bottom of this."