The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

USPS Chief Living Large

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The United States Postal Service (USPS) is fond of describing itself as a business, on par with some Fortune 100 companies.  However, a recent investigation by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) into allegations of misconduct of one of its chief spokespersons, Vice-President for Public Affairs and Communications (PAC) Azeezaly Jaffer, graphically reveals just how far removed postal business operations are from those of any well-run, private sector corporation. 

The OIG detailed a pattern of wasteful spending, sexual harassment, malfeasance, and obfuscation the likes of which would have driven any true private sector senior corporate management team with a healthy survival instinct to take swift, corrective action.  And yet, Mr. Jaffer’s behavior, which was well-known among postal employees, according to the report, was allowed to continue, apparently until employee complaints reached an embarrassing point.  Yet, USPS management’s reaction to the report was not to immediately show Mr. Jaffer the door and initiate proceedings against him.  In fact, Mr. Jaffer was granted two-months paid leave before being allowed to resign on  September 1, 2006.  

Mr. Jaffer worked for the USPS for more than 20 years.  As the V.P. of PAC since 1999, he oversaw a staff of 160 people and a $20 million budget.  The OIG investigation covers only January of 2003 through December of 2005.  Yet, over that short period of time, Mr. Jaffer crisscrossed the country, wining and dining guests and, often, his own relatives on the USPS’ dime. 

At one Washington, D.C. USPS event, Mr. Jaffer had his staff book him a 400-square foot suite at the Grand Hyatt at a cost of $8,252.00.  Between May of 2003 and June of 2005, Mr. Jaffer racked up a whopping $12,863 for meals at just one popular suburban Asian restaurant, where he treated his wife, as well as his limousine driver on occasion, to expensive meals.

The national capital area’s wait staffs must have salivated when they saw Mr. Jaffer and his entourage arrive, since his tipping habits were generous.  At another sophisticated D.C. restaurant, the final bill came to almost $5,000, including an automatic 20 percent gratuity.  Jaffer ordered that an additional $824 be added, bringing the final tip to 44 percent of the bill.  Apparently something of an oenophile, Mr. Jaffer told OIG investigators he considered “anything up to $100 a bottle [of wine] to be ‘halfway decent and reasonable.’”

While much of the report is rather sensational, detailing instances of Mr. Jaffer’s alleged excessive drinking and inappropriate behavior toward female USPS employees, a far more interesting picture of USPS corporate culture emerges from between the lines. 

For example, several of the extravagant meals and alcohol consumption revolved around his travels to Los Angeles for meetings with representatives of Warner Brothers Studio.  When asked why Mr. Jaffer would need to meet repeatedly with movie execs, a postal spokesman said he thought the meetings were related to promotion of the USPS’s stamp program.    

Some of Mr. Jaffer’s profligate behavior revolve around parties for and gifts of expensive luggage to Vonzell Solomon, a runner up for American Idol in 2005.  Ms. Solomon was a rural postal carrier when she auditioned for the television program.  According to a postal spokesperson, a party featuring Ms. Solomon qualified as an “employee appreciation” event.  The luggage allegedly given to Ms. Solomon was plucked out of a closet in Mr. Jaffer’s office that held a trove of goodies ostensibly left over from the USPS’s National Executive Committee events, including Movado watches, strings of pearls, and digital cameras.  (Ms. Solomon subsequently signed a contract to be a “holiday spokesperson” for the USPS.)   

While the OIG report describes a pattern of obstructionism on the part of Mr. Jaffer during its investigation, what is more interesting is not Mr. Jaffer’s uncooperative attitude, but his blind conviction that his wasteful and grandiose spending practices were an acceptable part of his job of “building the [USPS] brand.”  Mr. Jaffer’s lawyers maintain that none of his requests for reimbursement were ever denied by postal higher ups and there is no mention of any resistance by postal management to Mr. Jaffer’s hobnobbing activities, per se.  It apparently didn’t strike anyone at USPS headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza that Mr. Jaffer’s campaign to “build the brand” was ludicrous since the postal service is a bloated government monopoly with no competition in first-class mail delivery and certainly no lack of name recognition. 

The USPS is plagued by chronic fiscal turmoil, billions in unfunded future liabilities, lack of financial transparency, and absence of credible oversight.  As the USPS’ voluble spokesperson, Mr. Jaffer was notorious for his tartly-worded rebuttals, called “Setting the Record Straight,” aimed at critics who questioned the USPS’s spending and management choices (all of which seem to have been scrubbed from the USPS website).  He liked to boldly claim that all the USPS’s costs were “accounted for and fall into two basic categories:  the actual costs of moving each piece of mail and the contribution each piece of mail makes to support [the USPS’s] coast-to-coast network.  That’s not special postal accounting, that’s the law.” 

Mr. Jaffer’s reckless spending and “lack of candor” should be viewed as part of the operational culture of the USPS.  Azzezaly Jaffer was just living large because he had swallowed the prevailing party line.  Maybe the USPS does operate like a Fortune 100 business.  Just like Enron, Fannie Mae, or Tyco.         

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