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Legal Times: Senate Confirms New Special Counsel
Last week, the Senate approved the nomination of Carolyn Lerner as Special Counsel at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the office charged with investigating federal whistleblower disclosures, protecting them from retaliation, and defending the merit system. The office’s former leader, Scott Bloch, resigned over two years ago, and was sentenced last month to one month of jail time for withholding information from Congress.
Click here to read GAP’s statement on Lerner’s confirmation.
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal: CVS Whistleblower to Get $2.6M Reward
CVS has agreed to pay $17.5 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a pharmacist in St Paul. The suit alleges that the company inflated prescription prices and overbilled the federal government’s prescription program in several states.
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Washington Post: Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Reintroduced in Senate
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) -- legislation to bolster protection for government employees who report waste, fraud and abuse. The legislation, which was killed last December by a "secret hold" placed by an anonymous senator hours before Congress adjourned, is essentially identical to previous versions.
Click here to read GAP’s press release.
The Tampa Tribune: Law Keeps Claims Against HART Director Secret
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) board is scheduled to make a decision on Monday regarding numerous allegations of wrongdoing raised against HART’s chief executive. Because employees filed their complaints under a whistleblower law that protects their identities and disclosures, the “validity and severity of allegations” remain unknown.
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) today praised Senate action last night to confirm the nomination of Carolyn Lerner as Special Counsel at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the office charged with investigating federal whistleblower disclosures, protecting them from retaliation, and defending the merit system.
“This is an outstanding appointment, and we hope that Ms. Lerner will be worth the wait,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine. “To date, her career has personified excellence -- as a litigator, mediator and manager of government reform programs. Lerner has earned widespread respect among good government activists for a lifelong commitment to employee rights."
Lerner's task is seen as a difficult one, as OSC has been without a leader for over 18 months, following the resignation of Scott Bloch. Last month, Bloch was sentenced to one month of jail time for withholding information from Congress. During his tenure, Bloch issued gag orders and engaged in harsh retaliation against whistleblowers on his own staff, abandoning the agency’s mission to protect whistleblowers.
Devine added that credit should be given to the Oval Office, stating “It is no coincidence that this appointee could be the strongest Special Counsel since the office’s creation in 1978. President Obama now has completed appointments to the strongest, most qualified team in history to protect government and corporate whistleblowers. Now all these leaders need is a credible open government law to enforce. That would be done already, except for a 'secret hold' placed by a senator at the request of House Republican leadership last December on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). It is time for congressional Republicans to put their priorities and votes where their rhetoric is. Their war on waste will be false advertising unless they quickly act to pass the WPEA."
Tom Devine is Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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Associated Press: Ex-NSA Worker Charged in Leaks Case Honored
Thomas Drake, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who helped expose multi-billion dollar waste and fraud at the agency, was presented yesterday with the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling – an annual whistleblower award given by the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. Other awardees include U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, health industry whistleblower Wendell Potter, and the documentary film Budrus.
Drake has been charged under the Espionage Act for mishandling classified information, and could face 35 years in prison. In his acceptance speech, he warned that the U.S. government is criminalizing the act of whistleblowing, and “elevating national security to a state religion.”
Click here for more information about the awards and Thomas Drake, and to find out how you can support him.
Key Quote: "My case is centered on a government prosecution bent not on serving justice, but on meting out retaliation, reprisal and retribution for the purpose of relentlessly punishing a whistleblower," he [Drake] said. "Furthermore, my case is one that sends a chilling message to would-be whistleblowers: Not only can you lose your job, but also your very freedom."
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The Government Accountability Project (GAP) today released two documents on significant developments in the pending whistleblower appeal of former Federal Air Marshal (FAM) Robert MacLean – the courageous FAM fired for publicly protesting TSA plans in 2003 to abandon Air Marshal coverage during a confirmed terrorist plan for an oversees airlines hijacking.
In a desperate attempt to save face, three years after MacLean’s disclosures – which prevented the cancellation of FAMs on high risk flights – the TSA retroactively labeled the evidence MacLean used to make disclosures to Congress as “Sensitive Security Information.” TSA asserted that, in turn, MacLean violated agency regulations and used this fabrication as grounds for his termination. Yesterday, two congressional offices, those of House Oversight and Government Reform senior members Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) and Carolyn Maloney (D.-NY), filed an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), where MacLean’s appeal is pending.
In conjunction with the brief, MacLean submitted evidence that the agency’s only witness against him has been demoted two grades for alleged sexual misconduct. This demotion took place after a recently-completed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) internal investigation of the official, on charges that he was shielded from disciplinary action in exchange for purging TSA whistleblowers and leaders of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA).
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Associated Press: Former NSA Worker Charged in Leaks Case to be Honored as Whistleblower
Thomas Drake, the NSA whistleblower who has been indicted for retaining classified information in conjunction with a series of news articles that revealed wrongdoing at the agency, is being honored today as a whistleblower. Drake is receiving the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute for “risking his career and freedom to blow the whistle on mismanagement and illegalities at NSA.” GAP works in partnership with these organizations to produce this event.
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold and health industry whistleblower Wendell Potter are also being honored.
The Ridenhour Prizes were created to recognize individuals “who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society.”
Click here to read more about the Ridenhour Prizes and Thomas Drake on GAP's blog.
The Herald Palladium: Ex-manager Settles for $192,000
The city of Benton Harbor (MI) will pay $192,000 to settle a whistleblower case with a former city manager who alleged that the city let his contract expire after he reported criminal activity and financial problems.
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The Ridenhour Awards are today, and GAP, as always, is extremely proud to partner with the Nation Institute, Fertel Foundation, and others to make this event happen. There should be more events that honor the brave acts that whistleblowers take in the name of Americans. These coveted prizes are among the most respected for those citizens who act "in the spirit of courage and truth."
Every year, the awardees are exceptional. This year is no different. Whistleblower and author Wendell Potter takes the Ridenhour Book prize this year for his work in exposing the true nature of health care providers. Sen. Russ Feingold takes the Courage Award for his continued, principled fight against corporate wrongdoing. And a new award this year, the Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize, is being handed out to the producers of Budrus.
And the coveted Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize -- hands down the most respected annual American award for whistleblowers -- is going to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake. Drake, who GAP has advocated for strenuously over the past year, helped expose multi-billion dollar waste and fraud at the NSA by going through several internal government channels. His concerns eventually were reported in the Baltimore Sun. For his actions of protecting America, he now has the dubious distinction of being the fourth American indicted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was the first person.