Monday, January 4, 2010

Paying Postal Executives

In today's Washington Times, there appears to be a scandalous story about the income of Robert F. Bernstock, President of the Postal Service's competitive shipping services.   The article notes that Mr. Bernstock income included:
  • $232,500 salary
  • more than $270,000 in cash and other compensation combined in fiscal 2008 by serving on the corporate boards for weight-loss giant Nutrisystem Inc. and Pantry Inc., which runs the Kangaroo Express convenience store chain; and
  • $85,000 retention bonuses for 2008 and 2009.  

The scandal here is not Mr. Bernstock's compensation, nor is it his positions on outside board of directors.   The scandal here is that if the Postal Service needs a new senior management team to turn it around, it cannot easily hire from the entire executive talent pool available.  The compensation limits and Washington political environment severely limits the choices available to the Board of Governors.

There is a secondary scandal here and that can be found in the comment that Pete Sepp, vice president of Policy at the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative advocacy group made to the Washington Times.   "Postal customers have every right to ask if they're getting a full-time employee who can devote the time to help keep Postal Services from crumbling even further."  His comment illustrates how interest groups can and will use the Postal Service to forward their political positions with little understanding of the mail business, or the need for a broader solution to the Postal Service's problems.

Stakeholders who are concerned about competition in the parcel industry and the future of the mail industry need to talk to Mr. Sepp and others at interest groups from the far right to the far left and help educate them about the real issues facing the Postal Service.  Then, when he is called to make a comment to a reporter, he can comment with a least enough knowledge to keep the Postal Service from becoming a political football.

* * * * * *
For those readers in the Washington, DC area, the Washington Redskins are in the process of replacing of its entire coaching staff, after hiring Bruce Allen as General Manager.   In replacing Jim Zorn, the Redskins, are free to hire the best available coaching staff to try to turn around what is now a miserable team.  

The Redskins decision shows what happens in the private sector when an organization fails to deliver.   Fortunately, there are no restrictions on who it can hire to improve the team.  If the owner does not interfere, the new general manager and coaching staff can make rational decisions necessary to rebuild the team from scratch.

While the Postal Service may not need to be rebuilt from scratch, the status quo is no longer acceptable for it just like it is not acceptable for the Redskins.   The post above shows how much more difficult it will be for the Postal Service to hire a management team to turn it around than it will be for the Redskins.

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