Washington Postal Scene by Bill McAllister
On March 18, 2014, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced that he had finally found “a veteran communications leader and public relations executive” who could lead “all aspects of our internal and external communications” at the United States Postal Service.
William (Bill) Whitman Jr. would become the vice president for corporate communications, Donahoe said in a news release.
Whitman “will lead our efforts to advance public understanding of our products, services and corporate mission,” the postmaster general said.
And why not? Whitman had been vice president and chief communications officer at McDonald’s USA, worked at Exxon USA and had 30 years of public relations experience, plus a degree from Southern Illinois University, the announcement said.
Donahoe was so impressed with his new hire that he approved a $35,000 signing bonus, relocation expenses of $49,498.89 to move him from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and a $209,000 yearly salary.
But four months later, the executive that the postmaster general wanted to run his public relations program suddenly disappeared from U.S. Postal Service headquarters — without any public announcement.
Now, Linn’s has discovered what happened to the executive, whose work included overseeing public relations for the USPS stamp program.
It turns out that Whitman was the unnamed “former Postal Service vice president” cited in the Postal Service Inspector General’s recent semi-annual report who had been sentenced to two months in prison for making “multiple false statements” on a questionnaire and financial disclosure reports.
The arrest of a senior postal executive is extremely rare.
Because the charges were brought in Chicago, that may explain how the case proceeded without the public attention it could have received in Washington.
One postal worker who knew Whitman told Linn’s he was “a smooth character …he was smooth as silk.”
A Freedom of Information Act request filed by Linn’s produced the case number and the name of the court where the case against the former executive was filed.
Special agents from the Postal Service Inspector General, court records reveal, discovered Whitman’s resume and a security clearance form he filled out were riddled with lies within weeks of his March hiring. He was fired in June.
Whitman didn’t have a degree from Southern Illinois, and he wasn’t the corporate genius that his resume proclaimed, investigators said in court papers.
Shortly before he applied for the postal job, Whitman had been fired by another unidentified company for lying on his resume, the investigators said. Whitman didn’t mention that fact in the resume used to win the postal job.
It was all part of a constant pattern of lying, the investigators told a federal judge in Chicago in December 2016.
In a sense, Whitman was what some in Washington might call “the Postal Service’s Janet Cooke.”
Cooke was the Washington Post reporter who fabricated her college resume and a Post story about a young boy who supposedly was addicted to heroin.
After she won a Pulitzer Prize for the story in 1981, it was revealed to be a hoax.
Whitman, the investigators said, “had only one motivation for his conduct … greed.”
He wanted a high executive position at the Postal Service so badly that he “continued to lie in order to get what he wanted — the executive job with the accompanying executive salary and benefits.”
When Postal Service officials demanded that Whitman repay the advance funds he had received, he said no.
That attitude was one reason why federal prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman to send Whitman to prison for a term of 6 to 12 months, plus a year of supervised release.
The case against Whitman was initiated with a three-count indictment issued Aug. 12, 2015, accusing him of three counts of mail and wire fraud by mailing resumes and forms with misleading information.
A second superseding information was issued on Sept. 16, 2016, charging him with one count of failing to account for public money.
On Sept. 20, Whitman pleaded guilty in a Chicago courtroom to the revised charge under a plea agreement.
Judge Guzman sentenced him June 21 and ordered him to be imprisoned for two months and repay the Postal Service $84,498.
Whitman’s LinkedIn page says he worked at Howard University from February 2015 to June 2016 as vice president of communications and marketing.
“The Postal Service referred this matter to our Office of the Inspector General for investigation,” said U.S. Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer. “We do not generally comment on such investigations when they involve personnel matters relating to our current or former employees.”