June 1, 2018 —
When he became head of the U.S. Postal Service in January 1985, Paul Carlin was determined to make the bureaucracy more businesslike. The new postmaster general distributed copies of the best-selling management book “In Search of Excellence” to thousands of postal managers. To reduce losses, he cut costs, including his salary.
“We’re just one entry in a highly competitive market,” he said. “We must earn the right to carry the mail.”
Soon, however, some members of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors accused Mr. Carlin of being indecisive. He was fired just 12 months after he became postmaster general. Six months later, Mr. Carlin shot back with a lawsuit, saying he had been dismissed for opposing corrupt equipment-buying practices. His legal battle for reinstatement went to the Supreme Court, which dealt him a defeat when it declined to intervene.
Six months after he was ousted, Mr. Carlin said in court filings that he was fired because he opposed a scheme to steer a contract for mail-sorting equipment to a company favored by at least one member of the board of governors, Peter Voss. Mr. McKean denied that was the reason for firing Mr. Carlin. Mr. Voss pleaded guilty in May 1986 to charges that he accepted more than $20,000 in illegal payments from a public-relations firm to help win the contract for one of the firm’s clients. Mr. Voss was sentenced to four years in prison.
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