October 21, 2011 by Bob Livingston
The government hates it when people, especially government employees, point out its wrongdoing.
It has often demonstrated its displeasure by firing whistleblowers and sometimes even charging them with criminal activity for going public with its criminality. So, in its munificence, the government created the Office of Special Counsel to protect Federal whistleblowers.
But that office was for several years run by a thug named Scott Bloch, who pleaded guilty last year to contempt of Congress. After his own staffers pointed out that Bloch would retaliate against them for pointing out wrongdoing — such as closing whistleblower cases without proper investigation — a Congressional investigation was launched. Bloch had Geeks on Call wipe his computer. That revelation resulted in his guilty plea.
Now there’s a new sheriff in town, and it seems she’s really interested in protecting whistleblowers, according to an article in The Washington Post. She’s Carolyn Lerner, and the director of a whistleblower advocacy group called her “fearless.”
Since Lerner took over the agency in July, three stays have been granted in cases in which the Merit Systems Protection Board sought “serious adverse personnel actions” against Federal employees. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than were issued in 2008, 2009 and 2010 when there was a grand total of zero.
One case involved a civilian science and technology adviser with the Marines who faced indefinite suspension without pay for pointing out the failure of the Marine Corps to timely provide Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for troops in Iraq.
In another, the Public Health Service fired a biomedical engineer assigned to the Food and Drug Administration. He, along with other scientists, found serious safety problems in a device designed to detect breast cancer. The FDA approved the device anyway.
When the scientist, Paul T. Hardy, objected, his supervisor accused him of insubordination. When he took his findings to Congress, the FDA began pursuing criminal charges against Hardy for releasing agency information without authorization.
Many government agencies have become criminal enterprises that bow at the feet of the corporate benefactors they are supposed to be watching. Brave souls willing to expose that criminality need protection. Maybe Lerner understands this.