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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

CONSUMER BUREAU

Konop set to testify in bureau bias allegations

House panel calls ex-Lucas Co. official

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Konop Konop
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Former Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has surfaced as a called witness in a Congressional investigation of alleged bias within the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mr. Konop is an enforcement attorney with the agency and is the elected executive vice president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 335.

The Republican-controlled House Financial Services Subcommittee voted Tuesday to subpoena Mr. Konop and two other employees: M. Stacey Bach, assistant director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, and Liza Strong, director of employee relations.

The committee is looking into allegations from bureau employee Angela Martin, a member of Mr. Konop’s union, that she was discriminated against because of her gender.

An internal investigation commissioned by the agency found the consumer financial protection bureau to be a “toxic workplace.” However, the consumer agency disavowed the report as flawed for its use of unnamed sources.

An elected Democratic Lucas County commissioner from 2007 to 2011, Mr. Konop has been an attorney in the agency’s enforcement section for three years. He declined to comment Tuesday about his requested testimony.

Ms. Martin, termed a whistleblower by the committee, along with Misty Raucci, an investigator who was hired by the consumer agency, have described a culture of racial and gender discrimination and retaliation against employees, according to the committee’s statement Tuesday.

The committee voted to issue subpoenas because the consumer bureau has refused to allow the employees to testify, and the union has refused to allow Mr. Konop to testify, a spokesman said.

“As we continue our investigation into the claims of discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB, it is imperative that we are able to question Ms. Bach, Ms. Strong, and Mr. Konop,” committee chairman Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), said.

The consumer bureau was established with Democratic support after the 2008 financial crisis. President Obama appointed former Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray as its director.

Republicans remain opposed to the agency’s structure.

An article in American Banker on March 6 triggered the investigation by reporting that white employees were ranked “distinctly better than minorities” in performance reviews used to award raises and bonuses.

Ms. Martin, a senior enforcement attorney at the bureau, testified in an earlier hearing that she faced discrimination and retaliation. She’s also a board member of the CFPB employees’ union.

“I am a victim of discrimination by the Bureau dating back to May, 2012, and I have suffered severe retaliation since December, 2012, which continues through today. Sadly, my story is not unique. My colleagues likewise have suffered and are suffering at the hands of inexperienced, unaccountable managers,” Ms. Martin testified.

Bureau spokesman Sam Gilford declined to comment.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.



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