Federal Eye: Eye Opener: Attacks on Federal Employees

Happy Wednesday! Local, state and federal officials continue to investigate the death of Census Bureau employee William Sparkman, 51, found dead on Sept. 12 in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Sparkman's son Josh has told the AP that he's frustrated with the slow pace of the investigation. Police and FBI searched Sparkman's home, but have not provided any information on the search, the son said.

It is a federal crime to attack or kill a federal worker during or because of their job and government employees regularly face threats due to the nature of their work. Officials insist they have no information suggesting Sparkman was targeted because of his federal employment, but the slaying has raised concerns about the safety of federal employees.

The Justice Department had filed 277 such cases against 299 defendants as of August, according to spokesman Ian McCaleb. It prosecuted 303 cases against 330 defendants in FY '08, 326 cases against 348 defendants in FY '07 and 313 cases filed against 329 defendants in FY '06. McCaleb could not provide details about specific employees or agencies targeted or the number of successful prosecutions.

Union leaders have suggested that statements by lawmakers and commentators about the federal workforce may also be to blame.

"Perhaps, if more of our leaders had talked over the years about the dedication of the federal workforce, and shown us more of the appreciation and trust we deserve, this terrible event might not have happened," said Bill Schauman, president of AFGE Local 2782, which represents workers at Census Bureau headquarters in Suitland.

Other AFGE officials privately expressed concern about anti-government rhetoric, while other union leaders say the threats seem more situational.

"I really think it depends on the agency and the part of the country," said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley. Her union represents IRS agents and Customs and Border Protection officers that frequently face threats from delinquent taxpayers or unruly passengers.

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