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Congresswoman blocked from touring mail facility by Postal Service police

Congresswoman blocked from touring mail facility by Postal Service police

U.S. Postal Service police barred Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from entering two mail sorting facilities in Florida in the early morning hours on Friday, threatening to escort her from the property if she didn’t leave.

The Florida Democrat, who sits on the House Oversight Committee, said she aimed to inspect a mail plant in Opa-locka and Northwest Miami-Dade. Wasserman Schultz said union members told her about conditions at the processing centers and shared pictures that showed pallets of undelivered mail marked with a receipt date of “July 23.”

Her office said those photos were sent to them earlier this week and raise further questions about how the Postal Service is being run under the leadership of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a close ally of President Donald Trump. NBC News was not able to independently verify the photo of the reportedly undelivered mail.

“If DeJoy thinks he can just throw a bed sheet over what’s going on behind these doors, he is sadly mistaken. It looked like the post master had something to hide,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “Without access to these public facilities, the public is blindfolded to the problems or fixes taking place there. DeJoy cannot delay the mail and delay oversight of these facilities.”

The hold up of mail has come under intense scrutiny as millions failed to receive everything from prescription drugs to financial documents and online orders in recent months. The drop in service led to two tense Congressional hearings. At the House hearing last week, Wasserman Schlutz and her colleagues questioned whether DeJoy had intentionally hamstrung the federal agency.

The Postal Service maintained Wasserman Schultz was stopped from entering because she did not provide enough notice of her visit.

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Kim Fuller, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said Friday that the agency welcomes visits from members of Congress, but that they only “learned late yesterday afternoon that Representative Wasserman Schultz wanted to arrange” a tour.

“We spoke with her staff to explain that we were unable to set up the tour on such short notice, but would be happy to accommodate her at another time,” Fuller said. “We look forward to working with the Congresswoman and her staff to arrange a visit in the near future.”

Wasserman Schultz’s office pushed back against that characterization.

A congressional aide told NBC News that they alerted the Postal Service at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday that they intended to make the visit. Because of the photos and the fear of what might be hidden from the congresswoman’s view, the short notice was intentional.

“We weren’t asking for permission,” the aide said.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Sen. Gary Peters, both Michigan Democrats, visited a similar facility in Michigan last month. An aide to Peters said Friday that local union leaders had told the two members of Congress that the plant had been intentionally cleared of delayed mail because of their impending arrival.

Wasserman Schultz did not want the Postal Service to have the same opportunity with the plants in Florida.

But when Wasserman Schultz went to the Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center in Opa-Locka, Florida, for a 4 a.m. tour of the facility, the entrance to the parking lot was blocked by caution tape and a Postal Service police car. Her visit to the Miami Processing and Distribution Center a couple hours later was blocked by two Postal Service police officers in the lobby.

Caution tape and a U.S. Postal Inspection Service police cruiser blocked the entrance of the Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center in Opa-Locka, Fla., when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, attempted to enter the facility in the early morning hours of Friday Sept. 4.Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office

“Hours ago, that tape wasn’t there,” Nick Mosezar, a member of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, told NBC News’ Miami affiliate. “All of a sudden today security is a priority, yet this is one of the worst secured facilities in this state.”

As a member of the Oversight Committee, Wasserman Schultz said it is her job to inspect the Postal Service and its facilities. She said DeJoy has already “obstructed the committee” by not providing documents and data her committee has requested.

Sudden new requirements for “lengthy visitation protocols” that she did not have to follow when visiting facility earlier this year, she said, only served as further obstruction.

“There are no children, defense secrets or sick patients behind those doors,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I’m perfectly capable of observing the work being done at a safe social distance, which I did without a lengthy delay or incident earlier this year. Denying Congress access to the facilities, is denying the vital public oversight of our mail system.”

Image: Phil McCauslandPhil McCausland

Phil McCausland is an NBC News reporter focused on rural issues and the social safety net.

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