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I owe the NCUA's public affairs office a round of drinks.Probably more than one.

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In the last couple of weeks, Credit Union Timesreporting has pressured the agency into making three bigannouncements.

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The most recent was the Nov. 6 news that the NCUA will establisha new office to handle agency security and business continuity.(See our coverage on page 1: New Security Office Underway atNCUA)

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That revelation was in response to my questions about examinersafety, after NCUA employees found ammunition and semi-automaticweapons stashed in a credit union storage room by former TaupaLithuanian Federal Credit Union CEO Alex Spirikaitis.

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Plenty of credit union employees have found themselves staringdown the barrel of a gun. I understand that; I've been in atakeover myself and it was terrifying.

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Because robberies are part of the job, credit unions detailpolicies and procedures regarding exactly what employees should doduring robberies to minimize risk. And, credit unions also take outadditional insurance policies to protect against legal claims.

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But what about the NCUA? I combed through the NCUA employeehandbook and found nothing about field examiner safety procedures,not even to protect employees against the known danger of takeoversthat could occur while they are onsite at credit unions. Andadditionally, there were no procedures that detailed how fieldemployees should approach conservatorships or liquidations in theevent of suspected fraud, or if field employees suspect thesoon-to-be-ousted CEO might provoke a volatile situation for otherreasons.

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Perhaps those 10,000 rounds of ammo at Taupa Lithuanian weren't intended forNCUA employees, but they were meant for someone. Examiners couldhave easily been caught in the crossfire.

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When I first approached the NCUA with these questions, I didn'tget much of a response. That may have changed after I asked theNational Treasury Employees Union for their opinion. While theunion acknowledged that the situation in Cleveland was unusual, theNTEU also expressed some concern about examiner safety. Not asurprise there, as on-the-job safety is common concern for unions.NTEU President Colleen Kelley said the union and NCUA will worktogether to ensure safety concerns are addressed, and the NCUAconfirmed that.

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So let's recap: as a result of my pesky questions, at least inpart, the NCUA had to deal with a new union beef and put resourcesinto forming a new office as it finalizes its 2014 budget.

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Ouch.

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If that wasn't bad enough, Credit Union Times alsospent the last two weeks pestering the NCUA about tips we receivedregarding Board Member Rick Metsger's choice of Michael Radway to serve as his chief policy adviser. Eventhough Radway must still receive White House personnel officeapproval, the NCUA publicly acknowledged the selection Nov. 1,literally minutes before we were set to break the newsourselves.

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Radway is an interesting figure, and I'm looking forward toworking with him over the next four years. He certainly has thebackground for the job. He was chairman of the Federal Home LoanBank of Seattle for five years, and served as legislative directorfor Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) for 14 years prior to that.

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But it's Radway's job before working for Kanjorski that willraise eyebrows in the credit union world: he spent seven years aslegislative director for Rep. Norman E. D'Amours (D-N.H.)

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Yes, you read that right, Radway use to work for the notoriouslyboorish former NCUA chairman. Small world, eh?

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Finally, I think Credit Union Times should also claimsome credit for an Oct. 30 announcement from the NCUA that it isdevelopingnew exam procedures to better root out fraud at small creditunions. A full rollout is scheduled for next year. The NCUA said itwon't conduct separate fraud exams, but rather enhance current examprocedures so examiners detect fraud earlier during routine safetyand soundness exams.

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We've been making a lot of noise regarding the effect fraud atsmall credit unions could have on the entire industry. I know somewould prefer we just brush this topic under the rug, but most ofthe credit unions that have failed in the last couple of years weredue to fraud. As news professionals, we can't ignore that glaringfact.

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Thankfully, the professionals at the NCUA know that andunderstand the symbiotic relationship between the government andthe press. But that doesn't mean I don't still owe them all a stiffdrink.

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Heather Anderson
Executive Editor
[email protected]

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