President Donald Trump walks out of the North Portico of the White House, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Washington, as he departs for campaign events in Pennsylvania.

President Donald Trump walks out of the North Portico of the White House, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Washington, as he departs for campaign events in Pennsylvania. Patrick Semansky/AP

Salary Council Chairman Resigns in Protest of Trump Order Politicizing Federal Workforce

Ron Sanders, a key ally in the administration’s efforts to reform the civil service pay structure, said he cannot be party to “an attempt to require the political loyalty” of federal workers.

The chairman of a advisory council on federal compensation issues resigned from his post on Monday, saying that he can no longer “in good conscience” serve in the Trump administration after the president signed an executive order that would politicize a wide swath of the federal workforce.

Ron Sanders, who heads the Federal Salary Council, which annually submits recommendations to the President’s Pay Agent on locality pay and other federal compensation issues, submitted a letter of resignation to White House Presidential Personnel Office Director John McEntee, excoriating an executive order last week creating a new Schedule F within the excepted service for “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.”

The order instructs agencies to identify which positions qualify as policy-making and transfer existing career workers into the new job classification, stripping them of their civil service protections and making them effectively at-will employees. OPM last week told agencies that they would have wide latitude in deciding which jobs would meet the requirements for the new Schedule F, exacerbating fears among federal employee groups and good government experts that the White House plans to sidestep more than a century of civil service laws.

In his resignation letter, which was obtained by Government Executive, Sanders described his decision to step down as “a matter of conscience,” and he accused the administration of misleading the public about the purpose of the initiative.

“On its surface, the president’s executive order purports to serve a legitimate and laudable purpose—that is, to hold career federal employees ‘more accountable’ for their performance,” Sanders wrote. “That is something that I have spent most of my professional life—almost four decades in federal service (over 20 as a member of the Senior Executive Service)—trying to do. However, it is clear that its stated purpose withstanding, the executive order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the president, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process.”

Sanders wrote that although he is a lifelong Republican, he takes great pride in the fact that he served under three Democratic and three Republican presidents.

“I simply cannot be part of an administration that seeks . . . to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance,” he wrote. “[To] some, requiring that loyalty may seem entirely appropriate. After all, shouldn’t all employees do what the boss and his lieutenants tell them to do? I say no, at least not when it comes to career civil servants. The only ‘boss’ they serve is the public, and the laws that their elected representatives enact, whether this or any president likes it or not . . . That is the way our Constitution is supposed to work, and no president should be able to remove career civil servants whose only sin is they may speak such a truth to him.”