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Senate probes alleged ethics breach by NLRB chief counsel

BOSTON, MA — After the release of an investigative report alleging that National Labor Relations Board member Terry Flynn violated ethics rules by disclosing confidential information to two former Board members, the Senate is launching a probe of the matter.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wrote to Flynn last week to ask him to release information and documents relating to the findings of NLRB Inspector General David Berry.

Berry’s report claimed that Flynn, while serving as chief counsel to Board member Brian Hayes, leaked information to former NLRB members Peter Kirsanow and Peter Schaumber which could be used for their private benefit. Kirsanow now serves as outside counsel for the National Association of Manufacturers, while Schaumber is a labor advisor to the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In his report, Berry found that Flynn provided the former members with information about case lists, pre-decisional votes, case status, and other “deliberative, pre-decisional information that was protected from disclosure and considered by the NLRB to be the most confidential of Agency information.”

Such disclosures “violated the provisions of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch and that he lacked candor during the investigatory interview,” Berry wrote. “Given Mr. Flynn’s position as a Chief Counsel and his years of service, he knew, or should have known, that he had a duty to maintain the confidence of the information that he received in the performance of his official duties.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, forwarded the report to Attorney General Eric Holder. It is unclear whether the Justice Department will launch an investigation.

Harkin’s letter to Flynn indicates the Senate will do so.

“With all of the external political attacks that the NLRB has faced during this Congress, I am troubled to hear reports of internal ethical misconduct by a Board Member,” Harkin said in a statement. “Mr. Flynn’s disclosure of confidential information relating to cases pending before the Board while serving as Chief Counsel to a Republican Board Member not only undermines the impartiality of the Board’s adjudication process, but also raises the alarming possibility that the recent political attacks on the Board could have been aided and abetted by his unethical activity. To shed more light on this deeply troubling situation, I am asking Mr. Flynn to provide the Committee with additional communications and documents.”