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Today, GAP is applauding the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) decision to grant a stay request from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that prevents the Marine Corps from indefinitely suspending without pay "MRAP" whistleblower and GAP client Franz Gayl. The OSC sought, and was granted, a 45-day stay on the Marine Corps' proposed suspension of Gayl, which was slated to begin today. The stay gives the OSC time to investigate the proposed suspension and decide whether to take further steps in the matter.
The MSPB announcement of the stay request can be found here.
Even though the MSPB has stayed this action for now, the public need to let Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta know that this kind of treatment against a whistleblower will not be tolerated. GAP and POGO each started petitions to send this important message. Today is the last day to sign!
“GAP applauds the MSPB for granting OSC’s stay request and preventing the Marine Corps from forcing Mr. Gayl out of the agency by cutting off his pay before OSC has the chance to investigate the Marine Corps’ retaliation,” said GAP attorney Jonathan Cantú in response to the ruling. “As the OSC stated in their stay request, ‘it is difficult to imagine a case that would be more appropriate for an initial stay order than this one [where] a public whistleblower … has put his career at risk out of concern for the safety of service members in combat.’ The actions of OSC and MSPB should also be a signal to the Marine Corps to give up their wrong-headed campaign of retaliation against a dedicated employee who simply wanted to protect his fellow Marines.”
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Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) applauds a U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) stay request filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The stay seeks to prevent the Marine Corps from indefinitely suspending without pay "MRAP" whistleblower and GAP client Franz Gayl.
Specifically, the OSC has sought a 45-day stay on the Marine Corps' proposed suspension of Gayl, which is slated to begin this Thursday, October 13. The 45-day stay will give the OSC time to investigate the proposed suspension and decide whether to take further steps in the matter.
Gayl, a Marine Corps science adviser, exposed the fact that the Corps failed to provide American troops in Iraq with MRAPs – Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles – in a timely manner. These vehicles better protect soldiers against improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs. Had MRAPs been available to troops, Gayl maintains, they could have prevented many troop casualties and deaths. In June of this year, shortly before leaving his position, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that the deployment of MRAPs "saved "thousands of lives." Nonetheless, for his whistleblowing, Gayl has been the target of retaliatory investigations and workplace harassment, including the elimination of meaningful duties and loss of his security clearance. A more complete background on the Franz Gayl case can be read on GAP's web site.
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In a joint initiative by GAP and POGO this summer, we challenged our supporters to stand behind Marine whistleblower Franz Gayl by signing a petition to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calling for an end to his retaliatory treatment. With just a week left before we deliver this petition, don't wait to sign it!
Gayl remains under professional house arrest, after he exposed the fact that the Corps ignored an urgent request from troops in Iraq for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) – state-of-the-art vehicles that prevent the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gayl engaged in protected activity under the Whistleblower Protection Act by disclosing unclassified information to the media – and only after his warnings about the MRAP delays were repeatedly stonewalled within the chain of command. However, the WPA does not protect whistleblowers from getting their security clearances yanked after retaliatory investigations – a quick and dirty method of stripping them of their job duties.
The greatest injustice is that Gayl, like most whistleblowers, found himself the target of retaliation because he acted as a public servant instead of a bureaucrat. Unwilling to turn a blind eye to corruption that resulted in a quarter of combat deaths in Iraq, Gayl's disclosures saved the lives of "thousands" of American troops according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Despite this official vindication, Gayl has been subjected to Pentagon strong-arming tactics the past four years, and now the DOD is trying to put the final nail in his professional coffin by formalizing the removal of his security clearance. GAP and POGO are asking the public to step up again, and send a message to Secretary Panetta, demanding he reinstate Gayl's security clearance so that he can get back to doing what he does best – serving our country.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Campaign Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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A report released today by GAP coalition partner Project on Government Oversight (POGO) found that the federal government actually spends more money using privately contracted work than it would using government employees for the same tasks. In fact, the study shows this is true for 33 of the 35 occupations that POGO analyzed.
A very important point, considering the federal government spends $320 billion per year on contract services.
In recent months, many politicians have been critical of the wages and benefits for federal employees. President Obama has already announced a two-year freeze on the salaries of federal employees. Justification of this might have come from a 2010 Heritage Foundation study, which put forth that the salaries of federal workers are 22 percent higher than those of private sector workers. However, as the New York Times puts it:
POGO said its study did not just compare the salaries of the two sectors; instead it focused on what the government actually pays contractors to perform services versus how much it would cost to have that work done by in-house staff members.
"That's a big difference," said Scott Amey, POGO's general counsel. "We compared the full compensation paid to federal government and private sector employees to the billable rates in federal service contracts. Across the board you see that it cost government more to pay for contractors."
Is it a big difference? You bet!:
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GAP's Dylan Blaylock delivers the memo (note: OSC seal inserted)Last Thursday, GAP, along with the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a memo to the federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on the functionality of its website in regards to whistleblower protection information. The whistleblower community is well familiar with OSC, as it is the independent federal agency charged with protecting federal whistleblowers, investigating their disclosures, and reporting its finding to Congress and the President.
The whistleblower community is also well familiar with the fact that the OSC website is in dreadful shape. GAP and POGO were invited to write this memo by OSC, and (again) it's important to note that our critiques focus on the website's functionality and does not address any issues with content (that discussion will probably happen a little further down the road).
The OSC website should be a key resource for all potential and current federal whistleblowers, and should promote and demonstrate transparency, openness, and accountability. Further, it must be dynamic, easily navigable, straightforward, well-organized and aesthetically helpful in directing people to information quickly. But it falls short in many of these areas.
Recurring themes of functionality issues included out-of-date information, difficult navigation, an absence of document organization and transparency, and a lack of social media presence.
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Shame the government into doing the right thing. It worked in the case of NSA whistleblower Tom Drake, the target of a retaliatory Justice Dept. prosecution that finally died last Friday, after collapsing under the weight of groundswell public protest (and a lack of evidence by the prosecution - when presiding Judge Bennett forced the Justice Department to show its cards days before the trial and, empty handed, DOJ acquitted Drake of all criminal charges).
Franz Gayl, Marine Corps Science Advisor and former Marine, exposed the fact that the Corps ignored an urgent request from troops in Iraq for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) – state-of-the-art vehicles that prevent the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government responded by paralyzing Gayl professionally through suspension of his security clearance. GAP and our sister organization, Project On Government Oversight (POGO), are calling for an end to this retaliatory treatment.
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The issue of how to treat whistleblowers who themselves participated in wrongdoing – the very actions and schemes that they are blowing the whistle on – is a difficult one. Specifically, the ramifications for these whistleblowers coming forward, and the fallout, is a bit dicey regarding two areas: prison time, and 'bounties.'
With bounties, I'm talking about government agencies that reward whistleblowers for coming forward. The SEC just issued rules regarding its new whistleblower bounty program (after months of debate on multiple issues), a result of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act. Basically, whistleblowers from corrupt companies can now report financial wrongdoing on Wall Street, and when the government recoups over $1 million as a result of their disclosures, they get a cut.
But on "culpable whistleblowers," the agency's rules clearly dictate that no payment shall come their way:
Under the final rules, the Commission also will not pay culpable whistleblowers awards that are based upon either:
- The monetary sanctions that such culpable individuals themselves pay in the resulting SEC action.
- The monetary sanctions paid by entities whose liability is based substantially on conduct that the whistleblower directed, planned or initiated.
The purpose of this provision is to prevent wrongdoers from benefitting by, in effect, blowing the whistle on themselves.
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In a move that illustrates what the whistleblower community can expect from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) under the newly-appointed Carolyn Lerner administration, the OSC announced earlier today that it has obtained an order from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) that stays the firing of a federal whistleblower.
This is the first sign that, as expected and hoped for, the OSC has an administration in place that will fight for the rights of those federal employees who expose waste, fraud and abuse. This is quite the contrast from the last administration – that of Scott Bloch, who was heavily criticized by whistleblower and "good government" groups (including GAP) for persecuting whistleblowers in his own office (the OSC), and as the norm, failing to protect those federal whistleblowers who desperately needed his help (Bloch has been sentenced to one month in prison for withholding information from Congress).
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Stripped Provision in Authorization Act Would Have Provided Agency Heads With Sweeping New Powers to Retaliate
Today, GAP is praising the actions of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for successfully protecting the rights of national security whistleblowers. Wyden fought against a broadly crafted provision in S. 719, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (IAA) that, if passed, would have given Intelligence Community agency heads sweeping new power to retaliate against those employees they personally believe made unauthorized disclosures.
In this year’s IAA, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had inserted language permitting agency chiefs to punish current or even retired employees, whenever the chief decides that such an employee has made an unauthorized disclosure. The minimum penalty would be removing their pensions. Traditionally, past legislation has called for internal agency due process. But no statutory rights for employees were included in the IAA draft. In terms of due process, internal agency proceedings have typically been honor systems that routinely rubberstamp retaliation in the context of security clearance actions.
The committee included legislative history specifying that existing whistleblower laws would not be cancelled out by this provision, but agencies have routinely ignored this as unenforceable "cheap talk" in the past.
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Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is announcing the successful settlement by Air Force aircraft mechanic George Sarris of his Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) lawsuit. GAP adjunct attorneys Thad Guyer and Stephanie Ayers challenged a wide range of retaliation surrounding removal of Sarris' security clearance, ranging from removal of meaningful duties to lowered performance appraisals.
“The Air Force agreed to give Mr. Sarris everything that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) could order, and more, without a hearing,” commented GAP Legal Director Tom Devine.
A loophole in the WPA deprived Sarris of the right to challenge the security clearance removal. Congress is reconsidering an overhaul of the law, which was on the verge of passing last December when the final vote was blocked by a secret Senate “hold” an hour before adjournment. That overhaul, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), would give employees a chance to file lawsuits challenging retaliatory removal of clearances.
Sarris is a well-known figure within the whistleblower rights movement, who spoke at the 2010 National Whistleblower Assembly. He expressed his feelings at the end of a nearly four-year struggle:
In an attempt to prevent me from disclosing non-airworthy conditions overlooked by previous generations of aircraft mechanics, management presented me with two un-lawful written orders threatening me with disciplinary actions. Essentially, management attempted to blackmail me into allowing the operation of non-airworthy aircraft in exchange for continued employment. I did not fall prey to blackmail and elevated my concerns through the appropriate channels.