The abysmal failure of the US Office of Special Counsel to protect truth tellers in the US government was exposed at the largest gathering of whistleblowers in recent memory. The International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW) spotlighted the incredible danger to the public at its annual meeting May 11- 18, 2008.
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The IAW teamed up with Government Accountability Project (GAP), led by legal director Tom Devine Esq, and with OSC watch, led by nuclear reformer Joe Carson.
Just before the conference began, The Wall Street Journal reported that "more than a dozen" FBI agents served grand jury subpoenas this morning while searching the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the home of Special Counsel Scott Bloch. According to the Journal, OSC employees say the raid is in connection with allegations of obstruction of justice by Bloch, who in 2006 used a computer service, Geeks on Call, to completely erase his work computer's hard drive. Bloch asked the company to eradicate his computer's files as he was being investigated. Bloch and more than a dozen current and former OSC employees now are to be questioned before a grand jury regarding tampering, obstruction, and other serious crimes. The lead prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney James Mitzelfeld, a veteran of public corruption cases.
"The public demands better," exclaimed Carson, a long-time veteran in the war against fraud at the OSC. "The public deserves better. Mr. Bloch must resign." More than 100 federal whistleblowers agreed, and signed petitions to oust Bloch and clean the OSC department from top to bottom. Speakers at the conference included:
o David Nolan, Legal Advisor to OSC Watch Steering Committee.
o Carol Czarkowski, Former Department of Navy Contracting Officer.
o Sandalio "Sandy" Gonzalez, Former Special Agent Officer in charge of DEA.
o Doctors from the Veterans Administration demanding integrity at federal hospitals.
o Coalition partners also called for Bloch's ouster, including the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility , and a lawyer representing several current and former OSC employees.
"The fact is, this office is not functional with him in charge," said Debra S. Katz, who represents several OSC employees who have complained about mismanagement and retaliation.
Even conservative republicans agreed that Mr. Bloch must go: "In light of the various investigations into Mr. Bloch's conduct, including the FBI probe revealed yesterday, it's hard to believe he can continue to operate effectively," Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement. "It's time the OSC put this turbulent period behind it."
Mr. Devine revealed his letter to Congressional oversite committees: "The OSC's sharply deteriorating record must be nipped in the bud, before the agency becomes more dangerous. Already GAP has received a pattern of complaints from employees who filed OSC whistleblowing disclosures that they were subsequently retaliated against for going to the Special Counsel, after which the OSC declined to investigate. If this controversy follows the 1980's pattern, the next steps will be far worse. Empathetic OSC staff will be replaced with those hostile to whistleblowers, and the agency will start to become a resource to help agencies retaliate. See confirmation Hearinhgs on Federal Appointments before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. (1986). All of us have a responsibility to insure that unacceptable disaster for the merit system does not recur."
Later that day, OSC watch joined with the IAW and other coalitions honoring the "grandfather" of modern watchdogs, Ernest Fitzerald, who initiated the modern whistleblower movement while blowing the whistle on pentagon procurement.
GAP, the Semmelweis Society, and Public Citizen honored Congressional members and staff, whistleblowers, NGO's, and the public who have supported reform at the OSC, and who have supported whistleblower rights and legislation. Congressional offices will be presented with awards honoring their leadership on these issues. Participants included staff or members of 12 congressional offices: Sen. Daniel Akaka (D.-Hi), Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Me), Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va), Rep. John Dingell (D.-Mi), Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Ia), Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Ma), Rep. Todd Platts (R.-Pa), Rep. Christopher Shays (R.-Ct), Rep. Bart Stupak (D.-Mi), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D.-Ms), Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Ca), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
James J. Murtagh Jr.
Atlanta GA 30329