By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
A pair of recently released documents from the United States Postal Service offer additional details of the agency’s bungled distribution of the 100 United States $2 Jenny Invert panes of six stamps known as the upright variety (Scott 4806d).
One of those documents blames Khalid M. Hussain, the former head of the USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, for failing to exercise proper oversight over the distribution of the upright Jenny Invert panes.
It says he “intentionally failed to oversee the distribution process for approximately 13 months and implemented a flawed process in an attempt to reinvigorate the promotion.”
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The documents were provided to Linn’s in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for additional details on how the 100 upright Jenny Invert panes were distributed.
The panes have become one of the most valuable recent U.S. stamp issues, selling for as much as $55,000, the report noted.
But details on how the distribution of the upright varieties of the stamps, first issued in 2013, was handled has been limited.
In a heavily redacted report from the Office of Inspector General, the agency disclosed that its investigation into the distribution began on Jan. 27, 2015, when the inspector general received information from the USPS ethics office alleging misconduct by the head of the Stamp Fulfillment Services office.
The report states the inspector general concluded its investigation after the “removal” of Hussain, head of the Kansas City operation from 2005 to 2016, “for failure to discharge duties conscientiously and effectively.” That firing was upheld Sept. 12, 2016.
Hussain objected to the word “removed” from the inspector general’s report.
“I was not removed from the Postal Service. I retired Sep, 2016,” he said.
He offered “no comments” to Linn’s on other points in the report.
Hussain asked Linn’s to confirm with the USPS that he was allowed to retire retroactively in 2017. Postal officials did not respond to requests for comment on his statement. The agency has said his status was a personnel matter that it would not discuss.
Hussain was named only once in the redacted document. It quoted Mark Saunders, a Postal Service spokesman, as saying Hussain had believed he could “create additional awareness for the remaining un-inverted Jenny stamp panes” by giving them away to some of his mail-order clients.
Three panes were given away by Hussain before the process was stopped, the inspector general reported.
This “promotional concept — while well intentioned — was not properly vetted within the organization and is inconsistent with legal constraints associated with distributing stamps free of charge,” the USPS stated.
Giving away the valuable upright Jenny Invert panes was supposed to be handled by a process that ensured that 30 upright Jenny Invert panes were “randomly distributed,” the inspector general report said.
It said the “Automated Fulfillment Equipment System was to select one order each day, Monday through Saturday, from the hundreds received by the Kansas City center.”
At the end of the week, an employee was supposed to use “a random number generator” in the Excel spreadsheet program to determine who would receive one of the rare panes. The process was to take place over a 30-week period.
The official distribution plan called for the Stamp Fulfillment Services center to place within the stock of the normal Jenny Invert panes 30 of the upright Jenny Invert panes. A total of 70 upright Jenny Invert panes were to be distributed for sale at post office counters.
When the inspector general staff came to Kansas City, they conducted an inventory of the upright Jenny Invert panes and found 22 were still at the facility.
The inspector general staff then filmed workers mixing the rare upright Jenny Invert panes in with 50 panes of the normal panes.
These were to be “returned to distribution locations” and then “scattered” throughout the country, according to an undated memorandum that the USPS previously provided Linn’s in response to the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.
The names of the individual who wrote the memorandum were not disclosed.
The inspector general investigation report, dated June 5, 2016, does quote federal law stating that “whoever, being a Postal Service officer or employee, knowingly or willfully uses or disposes of postage stamps … entrusted to his care or custody … or sells or disposes of postage stamps or postal cards for any larger or less sum than the values indicated on their faces … otherwise than provided by law or the regulations of the Postal Service … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year or both.”