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  • OTLT.USA
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  • OTVI.USA
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
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  • WAIT.USA
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  • ITVI.USA
    16,350.840
    -55.350
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  • OTLT.USA
    2.731
    0.025
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  • OTRI.USA
    21.660
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  • OTVI.USA
    16,343.200
    -45.660
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  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
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  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
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  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
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  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
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  • WAIT.USA
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American Shipper

Lawmaker claims retaliation against FMC staffers

   A congressman from Southern California who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has requested documents and information from the Federal Maritime Commission saying the committee has learned agency staffers “may have faced retaliation for testifying in opposition to the employee-driver mandate” that the Port of Los Angeles unsuccessfully tried to impose on drayage companies as part of its Clean Truck Program.
   In a May 9 letter to FMC Chairman Richard Lidinsky, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said it has come to his attention that the independent agency “may be an agency in crisis.”
   “Commission insiders allege that the politicization of the commission’s core functions and administrative decisions has contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation among managers and staff,” Issa told Lidinsky.
   Lidinsky’s office had no immediate response to the allegations in Issa’s letter, but is preparing the materials Issa’s committee asked to have delivered by Tuesday May 22.
   Issa said the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has also opened an investigation into alleged politicization of the FMC.
   After the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced their Clean Truck Programs, the FMC in October 2008 filed a complaint in U.S. District Court to enjoin parts of the agreement including concession requirements that mandated exclusive use of employee-drivers in the Port of Los Angeles.
   Issa’s letter said two economists at the agency, Roy Pearson and Robert Blair, testified in federal court that the employee-driver requirement would reduce competition, unreasonably increase transportation costs, and was not critical to the environmental and public health benefits of the clean truck program (CTP).
   Their testimony sparked an outcry from National Resources Defense Council, which requested through the Freedom of Informational Act documents supporting the FMC’s position.
   In April 2009, the court denied the FMC’s request for a preliminary injunction, and in June 2009 the commission moved to dismiss its court challenge, noting that the American Trucking Associations had already been granted an injunction against the employee-driver mandate in a separate action.
   (After several years of litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in September 2011 permanently enjoined the employee-driver requirement, and Los Angeles said it would refrain from enforcing the employee-driver provision.)
   Lidinsky did not join the FMC until August 2009 and was sworn in as chairman that October.
   But Issa said in his letter to Lidinsky that one of his first acts as chairman was to insert himself into the Freedom of Information Act process by ordering that six boxes of Blair’s work papers concerning CTP be sent to “your office for review.”
   Issa goes on to say that his committee “has learned that Blair and Pearson may have faced retaliation for testifying in opposition to the employee-driver mandate in federal court” and that their supervisor Austin Schmitt may have faced retaliation for defending them.
   While their direct supervisor and FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye had lauded Blair and Pearson’s work as “outstanding,” Issa said Lidinsky had wanted to give them an annual performance award of $200 instead of $3,800-$4,200.
   Issa’s letter also said Schmitt was told his office would be subjected to a management survey and that the three employees as well as three others had their computers and email subjected to “covert surveillance,” using software called “Spector 360,” even after the FMC’s own inspector general expressed concern that it violated federal privacy regulations.
   Issa also told Lidinsky “according to information we have received the FMC procured an official car and chauffer used mostly to drive you from FMC headquarters to Union Station, a distance of approximately three blocks.” – Chris Dupin

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