03/23/2012 06:09 pm ET

Labor Board Member Shared Insider Secrets, Inspector General Says

WASHINGTON -- An inspector general's investigation has found that a recent appointee to the National Labor Relations Board violated the agency's ethical code by sharing sensitive information with outside lawyers, documents released Friday show.

Terence Flynn, now a Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board, passed along "the most confidential of Agency information" while serving as agency counsel last year, the report by the labor board's inspector general said. President Barack Obama named Flynn with a recess appointment in January to the labor board, the agency tasked with enforcing labor law on businesses and unions. Prior to that, he was chief counsel to former Republican board member Brian Hayes.

"Given Mr. Flynn's position as a chief counsel and his years of service, he knew, or should have known, that he had a duty to maintain the confidence of the information that he received in the performance of his official duties," the report said.

Nancy Cleeland, the NLRB spokeswoman, said that neither Flynn, the inspector general nor NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce would comment.

The information that the inspector general said Flynn passed along included case lists and statuses, preliminary votes and internal deliberations. One reported recipient, former NLRB board chairman Peter Schaumber, has publicly criticized recent labor board decisions. Schaumber could not be reached for comment.

Another lawyer named in the report, former board member Peter Kirsanow, told HuffPost that he neither asked for nor received information from Flynn that wasn't public. "What I'd asked for was a 20-year-old case. I thought he may have quick access to it. He sent me an email saying sorry, he couldn’t help." Although Flynn later sent Kirsanow a copy of a separate complaint filed against the board, Kirsanow maintained that it was merely a "courtesy copy" that would have been public.

House Democrats released the report on Friday and asked the Department of Justice to investigate. "I have been deeply concerned about a number of developments over the last year that have threatened to undermine the integrity of the adjudication and rulemaking processes" at the labor board, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder. "The inspector general’s findings about the conversions of sensitive government information for private gain should not go without further scrutiny."

House Republicans, who have been warring with Democrats over recent NLRB decisions, acknowledged the seriousness of the charges in a statement. "The inspector general’s report makes serious allegations that Terrence Flynn engaged in ethical misconduct while an employee of the National Labor Relations Board," said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the education and workforce committee. "Any allegation of misconduct by a public official must be reviewed."

The labor board, normally a little-seen federal agency, came into the national spotlight last year after issuing a string of decisions and rules that the business community claimed were overly friendly to unions. In particular, Republicans were furious over a complaint issued against Boeing Co. involving a dispute with the company's unionized workers in Washington State. GOP lawmakers called for defunding the labor board entirely, though the Boeing complaint was eventually settled to everyone's satisfaction.