The U.S. Postal Service continues to investigate two incidents of apparent mail dumping last week, including one instance in which a contractor appears to have discarded a large amount of bagged mail and packages in a parking lot.
Meanwhile, Congressmen Adam Schiff and Jimmy Gomez have formally asked for USPS investigators to conduct a broad inquiry alongside the local probe to identify whether the incidents were isolated occurrences or reflect a larger issue with the institution. The dumping of unopened mail, which was partially captured on surveillance footage, is likely to serve as a lightning rod to ongoing controversies regarding the handling of the USPS ahead of a national election expected to rely heavily on mail-in voting.
Schiff, a Burbank Democrat whose district includes Glendale, and Gomez, a Los Angeles Democrat whose district extends to Eagle Rock, addressed their concerns in a letter to Patricia Armstrong, inspector in charge for the L.A. Division of the USPS.
“This matter is of grave importance, as it comes at a time when there are still questions and concerns about the Postal Service and accessibility for residents and business owners, as a direct result of deliberate policy changes to the service from the president of the United States and his postmaster general, Louis DeJoy,” the congressmen wrote. “Millions of Americans rely on the Postal Service every day — we’ve heard from veterans and seniors waiting weeks to receive medication, small businesses who are losing money due to package delays, and of course, millions of citizens who are concerned that their mail-in ballots won’t be counted.”
In video footage obtained and aired by multiple news outlets, a man driving a Budget rental truck is seen backing the truck into the parking lot of 7Q Spa Laser & Aesthetics around 5:35 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. After opening the back of the storage container, the man is shown piling dozens of packages and bags of mail, all unopened, into the parking lot before leaving.
Employees at 7Q contacted the Glendale Police Department about the packages around 9:30 a.m. that day, according to Sgt. Christian Hauptmann.
Already that morning, USPS investigators were in Glendale in connection with another incident in which bags of mail and packages were abandoned in an alleyway in the 1000 block of Allen Avenue. Hauptmann said those investigators contacted the GPD for assistance at the Allen Avenue site around 7:45 a.m. that day.
When GPD was called to 7Q, Hauptmann said officers immediately turned that site over to the USPS, which collected all of the dumped mail and packages for its investigation.
“No reports were generated by the Glendale Police Department regarding either incident and the entire investigation is being handled by the United States Postal Service without any Glendale police involvement,” Hauptmann said in a statement.
A News-Press phone call to 7Q was not returned by press deadline on Friday.
Omar Gonzalez, coordinator for the Western Region of the American Postal Workers Union, said it was a contractor, not a USPS employee, responsible for handling the mail that was dumped near 7Q. Evelina Ramirez, a USPS spokeswoman, declined an interview request at this stage of the investigation.
“In order to preserve the integrity of their investigations and to prevent fundamental unfairness to the subjects of those investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not comment on any ongoing investigations,” she wrote in an email.
The Postal Inspection Service, Ramirez added, handles law enforcement and security for the USPS and works to enforce more than 200 federal laws related to mail service.
While discussing an unrelated matter on his KCRW radio show “All the President’s Lawyers,” attorney Ken White recently described the USPS investigators as “not really well known but some of the most methodical, meticulous, scarily competent federal agents in the system.” White, a former federal prosecutor who lives in La Crescenta, added that he always appreciated the professionalism and detail of their work in criminal cases on which he worked.
“Sometimes when they get involved, in my experience, they tend to be sedate in their pace but their abilities are absolutely top notch,” White said in the August show. “Generally, you know that if your client is in a case with postal inspectors that they have very serious problems.”
The letter from Schiff and Gomez takes aim at President Donald Trump, who successfully encouraged DeJoy’s appointment as postmaster general in June. Since DeJoy took the position, his actions to remove old mail-sorting equipment and drop-off boxes as well as cut overtime hours have sparked outrage from Democrats, who are accusing the Trump administration of interfering with the upcoming election. The coronavirus pandemic is expected to significantly increase the number of mail-in ballots requested by American voters.
“We respectfully request that Congress be kept appropriately apprised as the investigation continues, including whether these were isolated incidents or part of a broader issue,” Schiff and Gomez wrote. “We would appreciate an update on the status of the investigation and efforts to prevent future mishandling of mail.”
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a $25 billion funding bill for the USPS in August. Twenty-six Republican representatives quietly approved the bill alongside the full Democratic caucus. However, the Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to consider its own version of the bill.
In the meantime, DeJoy pledged to slow down continuing changes in USPS operations until after the election.
— City News Service contributed to this report.