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More Collateral Damage from the Siegelman Case – Talking with DOJ Whistleblower, Tamarah Grimes

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The Bush administration is no more. But his legacy lives on in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, massive joblessness, the trashed economy, the transfer of power to the Executive Branch. During Bush's tenure, the Justice Department also became politicized to an unprecedented degree.

One of the most visible among the hundreds of political prosecutions was former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. A Democrat and the only Alabamian to have served in all four of the top state elected positions, he was a choice target of Karl Rove. After several unsuccessful attempts, Gov. Siegelman was convicted of corruption and sentenced to prison. He is presently out as he awaits his appeal. Ninety-one former US Attorneys of both parties have asked President Obama, AG Holder and DOJ to reexamine Siegelman's case. Andrew Kreig, Roger Shuler, Scott Horton, and Glynn Wilson have done a stellar job covering the Siegelman case. [For more background information, a sampler of their articles can be found at the end of the second part of this interview.]

Tamarah Grimes was a paralegal working with the prosecution in the case against Don Siegelman. She contacted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Conyers and the DOJ about the prosecutorial misconduct of Alabama US Attorney Leura Canary and her team. For her pains, Grimes was chastised, intimidated, and ultimately fired, her reputation trashed. To add insult to injury, she was denied health insurance and they're trying to rescind her unemployment benefits.

This is particularly grievous for Grimes because she was the sole breadwinner in her household and her health insurance policy covered her disabled son. Grimes was terminated just eight days after sending a letter to AG Holder, laying out her concerns about the Siegelman case. Her firing will surely have a stifling effect on any other DOJ employees contemplating similar actions. Unemployed and uninsured, she is on the brink of financial ruin. Tamarah may be bloodied but she is also unbowed. She seeks no one's pity. This is her story.

I'm so pleased to welcome you to OpEdNews, Tamarah. Tell our readers how your life has changed since becoming a whistleblower.

In reading the Office of Special Counsel report [that dismissed Grimes's claims of prosecutorial misconduct], I am reminded of the famous children's fable The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen. Like the prime minister in the story, Interim Special Counsel William E. Reukauf would have you believe that the actions of the Department of Justice are irrefutable -- even in the face of e-mail communications which clearly contradict its position -- so much so that only the incompetent and unreasonable fail to recognize its merits.

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Like the emperor, I feel duped by the Office of Special Counsel. Federal employees have access to the Office of Special Counsel's whistleblower's website which prominently features its whistleblower duties. Relying upon the information I obtained from the Office of Special Counsel website, I placed my trust, my career, my entire life and the lives of my family in the hands of the Office of Special Counsel on the premise that whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by federal law. Based upon my personal experience, nothing can be further from the truth.

Based on what happened to you, how would you advise potential whistleblowers?

There are no safe conduits. In reality, those who can pass the buck will certainly do so. When faced with the prospect of finding fault with DOJ - the equivalent of career suicide - you can expect nothing more than a half-hearted regurgitation of DOJ's reported conclusions, embossed with the official Office of Special Counsel seal of approval.

Potential whistleblowers, beware! Should you suffer whistleblower retaliation, you have no right to a jury trial of your whistleblower claim. Legislation reputed to enhance whistleblower protections has been recommended, but even the enhanced version does not offer whistleblowers the right to a jury trial. I have been advised that the Obama Administration does not support jury trials for whistleblowers. So, this is unlikely to change without a significant groundswell of public opinion.

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What can you do? Take action! Contact your congressmen, your senators and the White House - tell them you believe whistleblowers should have more protection. If you wait on someone else to take action, the opportunity might be lost. The Enhanced Whistleblower Protection Act legislation is currently under consideration.

My colleague, Michael Collins, raises this interesting question, Tamarah: "The Obama Department of Justice had the Bush holdovers conduct the investigation of the Siegelman case. Does this look like the Obama Department of Justice is covering up for the outrages of the Bush appointees?" I would add: If not, how would you explain the strange and unprecedented move of Obama leaving most of the Bush appointees/U.S. attorneys in place?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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The ordinary citizen counts for nothing in the USA... by Jason Paz on Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 2:50:05 AM
tells usthe sordid details of the gross misfeasanc... by Archie on Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 3:14:09 PM
i agree 100%, archie.thanks for writing.... by Joan Brunwasser on Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 3:20:24 PM
Tamarah Grimes story is appalling. It is terrible ... by Kathleen Bushman on Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 3:51:52 PM
go read part two of this interview (just posted). ... by Joan Brunwasser on Friday, Oct 9, 2009 at 3:58:14 PM