Officials discuss USPS audit

Outside the Dundalk post office, U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2), alongside Rep. John Sarbanes (D-3), left, Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-7) and Maryland Del. Ric Metzgar (R-6), announces the findings of the USPS Inspector General's audit of poor mail service in the area.

The Dundalk post office had more missing mail reports than any of the nine post offices in the Baltimore region audited by the U.S Postal Service’s inspector general’s office this year, according to their audit report released this week.

Auditors found over 970,000 delayed pieces of mail while probing the nine area post offices this year, noting they found mail postmarked for December, 2020 at the Dundalk post office during a visit in June 2021.

The Baltimore region had the second-most missing mail reports in the country on average, behind only the Chicago region, according to the report.

At a news conference announcing the report in front of the Dundalk post office on Tuesday morning, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) said the findings of “unacceptable mail service” throughout the region were “no surprise to people living in this area, but now we have a report to guide us in terms of actions.”

The audit, requested by U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2) and Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-7) earlier this year, looked into the Dundalk, Essex, Parkville, Rosedale, Middle River, Loch Raven, Carroll, Druid and Clifton East End post offices following complaints of missing mail, which became more apparent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Auditors also found management at the post offices had not been accurately reporting the delayed letters, with the Dundalk, Rosedale and Parkville units not reporting any of the thousands of delayed mail pieces present on the day of the OIG’s site visits in June, and employees improperly scanned nearly half of the packages which investigators selected for review.

Problems with hiring and retaining employees at the post offices coupled with mismanagement are to blame for the missing mail, the report found. Management there told auditors a “significant number of carriers” took a pandemic-related leave during March and April of 2021, after it was authorized by the American Rescue Plan earlier this year.

A lack of employees working crippled the post offices prior to that act as well, the audit found, with the Dundalk, Essex and Parkville post offices all having below-average employee availability during every pay period from October of 2020 to July of 2021.

Management also told auditors many carriers left the job after finding out how physically demanding the work was.

“The problems predated, predated the pandemic, and there are a lot of other contributing issues,” Ruppersberger said at the conference.

Auditors also found that management in the region didn’t remove 40 mail carriers, who had quit or were terminated in the span of two months this year, from their rolls, causing the post office to not recruit new carriers those months.

The audit called on new Maryland District Manager Lora McLucas, who took over the position in September this year, to develop a plan to hire and retain enough carriers, open a third carrier training academy and reform internal post office policies to remedy the issues. She agreed with the findings and recommendations.

Post office management and auditors agreed on deadlines of Nov. 19 and Nov. 30 for those fixes to be implemented.

Ruppersberger and his federal colleagues also called for the resignation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the controversial head of the agency who they blamed on major nationwide missteps since his confirmation in May of 2020.

“Let’s make no mistake about it, the problem starts at the top,” Mfume said at the conference. “You cannot blame postal workers, who worked their fannies off to get us through a pandemic where nobody wanted to come to work.”

Asked about DeJoy, State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-6) said he believes the issue is getting people back to work.

“They want to hire,” Salling said at the conference, gesturing at the post office building. “We want to hire veterans, we want to hire people that want to work. And I think people do want to work.”

“The blame game is over, we’ve got the audit, we’ve got the paperwork and process, we’ve got the plan, now we need to forget the words and put the plan in progress,” state Del. Ric Metzgar (R-6) said.

Del. Bob Long (R-6) said he encourages those who get medication through the mail to use FedEx or UPS instead of the post office, and for those with issues paying bills due to the mail to contact their credit card company to avoid getting their credit score hit.