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This weekend, GAP and On The Media will conclude our campaign to identify the senator who placed the anonymous hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), effectively killing the bill at the end of the last congressional term. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine will wrap up the campaign and its findings on On The Media.
Since the campaign began in early January, we were able to rule out nearly every senator as being a suspect. After the list of prospective senators was narrowed down to five (as a result of your steadfast advocacy!), over 1,000 people signed our Change.org petition urging these remaining senators to either confirm or deny placing the hold. This increased pressure allowed us to further eliminate Senator McConnell and Senator Vitter, leaving only Senator Risch, Senator Kyl, and Senator Sessions as potential suspects.
Please check with your local NPR station to see what time On The Media will air this weekend, and tune in to listen to Tom Devine speak about the conclusion of the campaign, and where we're going from here!
Additionally, GAP wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters who participated in our campaign. Because of your efforts, whistleblower rights for all federal employees are closer to becoming a reality.
Lindsay Bigda is Communications Fellow for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.
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Earlier this afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Robinson sentenced disgraced former U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch to one month’s imprisonment for lying to federal investigators. Bloch’s lawyers, however, pled for house arrest or halfway-house “community confinement” as an alternative to imprisonment, and the judge is accepting another round of briefs.
Quote me on this: "Bloch’s desperate attempts to avoid accountability are becoming pathetic. He continues to disgrace the Office of Special Counsel, even after resigning in disgrace."
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), established to defend whistleblowers and political threats to the civil service merit system, has been leaderless for nearly 18 months, since Bloch resigned after being indicted for making false statements to FBI investigators probing corruption at his office. During his four years at the OSC, Bloch turned the agency into a caricature of its mission. He issued gag orders and engaged in harsh retaliation against whistleblowers on his own staff, abandoned the agency’s mission to protect whistleblowers, and challenged former House Government Reform Committee Chair Tom Davis (R.-Va.) to settle matters with a physical fight outside when challenged at congressional oversight hearings.
Taxpayers and whistleblowers should be grateful to a judge who is defending the rule of law.
Tom Devine is Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.
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This morning, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing on nominee Carolyn Lerner to lead the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. The agency, established to defend whistleblowers and political threats to the civil service merit system, has been leaderless for nearly two years, since disgraced former Special Counsel Scott Bloch resigned after being indicted for making false statements to FBI investigators probing corruption at his office.
“This is an outstanding nomination, and we hope that Ms. Lerner will be worth the wait,” stated GAP legal director Tom Devine. “To date her career has personified excellence -- whether as a litigator, mediator or manager of government reform programs.”
The selection of Ms. Lerner to fill the vacancy looks to represent a substantial departure from OSC’s days of lawlessness and hostility to whistleblowers. Lerner has earned widespread respect among good government activists for a lifelong commitment to employee rights. But she also has represented management clients and assumed management responsibilities in the public and private sector.
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Remember former U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch? Appointed under the Bush administration to head the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which investigates federal whistleblower disclosures, Bloch quickly gained notoriety as a threat to the merit system and his own employees. Bloch was put under investigation in 2007, following a litany of allegations that he was pursuing personal political agendas over his mandate to protect whistleblowers. A quick and dirty attempt to wipe his own hands clean has landed him a month's worth of jail time, unless his own prosecutors give him a 'get out of jail free' card.
Last April, Bloch pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of Congress for withholding information from Congressional investigators. In 2006, he hired Geeks on Call to scrub his government-issued computer of evidence that he violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. After Bloch withheld details from the House Oversight Committee of this evidential purging, a federal judge sentenced Bloch to a mandatory one-month minimum jail term.
Red flags went off in the whistleblower community earlier this month when Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Leon filed a motion for reconsideration to reduce Bloch’s jail term to probation. Bloch’s lawyers eagerly joined the motion. Apparently, Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson’s ruling threatened the plea deal that Bloch and his prosecutors arranged.
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On January 26th, 2011, former Federal Air Marshal (FAM) turned whistleblower Robert MacLean received a curt "final denial" of his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE). However, the denial letter
MacLean requested documentation pertaining to a series of retaliatory investigations
enacted by the Federal Air Marshal Service against himself and several other FAM whistleblowers. What’s more, the pretext to open these investigations was often withheld or lacked merit. However, the common thread between these targeted FAMs is that they all warned of unsafe agency plans that made the flying public more vulnerable to terrorist hijackings.
Instead of allocating agency funds to correct these national security loopholes, taxpayer dollars were used to conduct illegal investigations on FAM whistleblowers.
The FOIA response states:
A search of the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) produced a total of thirteen (13) compact discs including audio recordings and document files with approximately three-thousand (3000) pages of records, eight (8) analog tapes, and an estimated three-thousand two-hundred fifty (3250) pages of physical records that were located. After a complete review of the records I have determined that, absent a privacy waiver regarding the subjects named in the investigation, all records will be withheld pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C) of the FOIA.
Washington Post: U.S. Park Police Chief Chambers Is Reinstated
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Teresa Chambers – the U.S. Park Police chief who was fired for expressing concerns over safety issues – has been reinstated in her former position.
Chambers’ ultimate victory marks the end of a seven-year legal battle in which her case was brought three times before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Chambers’ ruling, along with others, illustrates how the MSPB has begun to reverse its trend of ruling against whistleblowers and restore its authority to enforce the merit system.
Key Quote: Under Grundmann, the board "made more progress toward protecting the merit system than in any other year since it was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978," said Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy organization. "It issued landmark precedents that restored its authority to enforce the merit system. It reversed a decade-long trend of ruling against whistleblowers."
Four whistleblower victories in 2010 were one more than the total for the previous decade, Devine said.
Click here to read Devine's blog on the MSPB, and problems with Administrative Judges' record with whistleblower cases.
The new Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) was off to a flying start in the first year of Obama administration appointees. Thanks to Chair Susan Grundmann’s leadership, the Board made more progress toward protecting the merit system than in any other year since it was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. It established an unprecedented infrastructure of research, transparency, and public enfranchisement. It issued landmark precedents that restored its authority to enforce the merit system. It reversed a decade long trend of ruling against whistleblowers. In 2010 for merits decisions by the full Board, there were more whistleblower victories (four) than in the previous decade (three). That is four times the total of one Board whistleblower victory during the entire term of previous Chair Neil McPhie.
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Unfortunately, for whistleblowers, the Administrative Judges (AJ’s) who conduct hearings and issue initial decisions do not seem to be listening yet. In November and December 2010, AJ’s ruled against whistleblowers in 31 of 33 decisions. For the year their record was 12-187, with whistleblowers on the short end. They continue routinely to rubberstamp agency reprisals through expansive readings of Federal Circuit loopholes that have gutted the Whistleblower Protection Act. Setting the pace for bias was AJ Elizabeth Bogle of the Washington Field Office, who ruled against the whistleblower defense in 23 decisions out of 23 cases. The Board is doing what it can through rulings. In 2010 it remanded, or sent back, 11 cases for a hearing that AJ’s had dismissed. But it is clear that until Congress overhauls the statute, the Board’s leadership will be insufficient to reverse deeply ingrained administrative law patterns hostile to whistleblowers.