David P Weber by FDIC, US Government
My guest today is David P. Weber, former Assistant Inspector General for the SEC, now in private practice at Goodwin Weber, PLLC.
JB: Welcome to OpEdNews, David. Thomas Perez is rumored to have the votes to be confirmed as Secretary of Labor. Is that good news?
DPW: No. It is not good news. I represent a class of six U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors and senior staff, who allege that Mr. Perez is engaged in substantial discrimination and retaliation against them for coming forward with allegations of misconduct within the Civil Rights Division. I also interviewed more than ten other DOJ staff, who were too afraid to join the suit, but will become witnesses when they are subpoenaed, which they feel will afford them more protection from retaliation.
My clients, who are current and former members of the Civil Rights Division, including senior trial attorneys, met with senior Senate staff, and asked for a delay in the confirmation of Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez as head of the Labor Department while misconduct allegations are investigated. On Friday, a number of my clients and I met with both Republican and Democratic staff of the Senate to outline my clients' claims of substantial misconduct against Mr. Perez. I revisited with senior Senate staff on Monday night.
According to my clients and other DOJ witnesses, at the direction of Mr. Perez and his senior DOJ staff, earlier this year, the Civil Rights Division began a widespread campaign of disparate and discriminatory treatment against Civil Rights Division employees who struggled with mobility, hearing, vision, emotional, physical or mental challenges and disabilities, as well as those under protected status based on race, gender, age, and/or parental status.
When we met with Senate staff, in addition to disparate treatment discrimination, we also presented statistical evidence of disparate impact discrimination under the leadership of Mr. Perez. During Mr. Perez' time as head of the Civil Rights Division, hiring and employment of Hispanic staff has decreased by a statistically significant percentage. Using the same statistical evidence these DOJ attorneys use in everyday suits against private employers, the statistics indicate that, but for discrimination, there is no legal explanation for the decline in minority hiring under Mr. Perez' leadership. Disparate impact discrimination is unlawful, both in private and public sectors.
Mr. Perez has been nominated to be the protector of the American workforce, yet our clients now have reported to Congress that under his direction, the Civil Rights Division rampantly discriminated against its own workforce, and retaliated against those brave enough to raise their hand and speak out. It is not right, it is not nice, and this nomination needs to be halted pending the investigation and the adjudication of the complaints my clients have made individually, as well as the class action lawsuit I will be filing shortly.
JB: How receptive to your pleas for delay were the Senate members?
DPW: Some were very receptive; others not so much. It was very surprising who took which positions. Republicans were, of course, interested. Some were interested for political reasons. Others Republicans were interested because they legitimately recognized the significance of the issues. As an example of responsible leadership would be Senator Grassley, who historically has always been a champion of whistleblowers, regardless of the politics of the situation.
With regards to the Democrats, Senator Feinstein, by far, has been the most concerned thus far. Two of my clients at the Department of Justice are her constituents, and one of them has been subjected to physical assaults at the Civil Rights Division. These are allegations that are not for the faint at heart. Senator Feinstein deserves significant credit, regardless of the ultimate vote (unless she votes for him!), for taking the time and consideration to hear what my clients raised their hands about. We met with her staff - including the most senior staff including her counsel - on two separate occasions. Dick Durbin also paid attention. Some other Democrats, disappointingly, less so.
Most significantly, my clients were exceedingly disappointed that Senator Harkin declined to meet with us. Senator Harkin is a great advocate for the disabled. Yet, I represent what amounts to a sizeable portion of the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division - those who enforce the law as to disabled Americans - and nearly all of my DRS clients are themselves disabled. Harkin and his staff declined to meet with us. That is shameful.
JB: How do you explain this, David? You would think that the Senators would be up in arms about such egregious behavior by a Cabinet nominee.
DPW: It is hard to explain this, Joan. I think that the nomination of Mr. Perez has been subsumed into a larger debate into the role of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. As you probably know, I am also a near-full time professor [UMd.], and this is an interest of mine. The Senate, unlike the remainder of government, was intended by the founders to be a place where minority views had rights. Colonies like Rhode Island and Maryland - my home state - were concerned that large states like New York and Pennsylvania (then), could force an issue of national significance. The Senate was always intended to allow minority rights, an enormously ironic point in the issues concerning Mr. Perez. I believe that, because Mr. Perez is himself Latino, many are reluctant to challenge his nomination.
Yet, during his tenure, minority hiring has declined by a significantly statistical percentage. No rational explanation accounts for this. When one of my clients met with Mr. Perez about this issue as part of a minority affinity association within DOJ, Mr. Perez flatly denied disparate impact discrimination, noting only that he himself was Latino. Being Latino does not act as a legal defense to the reality that the facts and statistics demonstrate that he has hired less minorities than the Bush administration. That is shameful; and it is illegal. We intend to prove that case up, whether he gets confirmed or not.
JB: Where is President Obama in all this? Is he aware of all the hubbub?