Groups call for whistleblowers to come forward
Three nonprofit whistleblower protection groups are asking federal employees who have filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel to come forward and share information on how their cases were handled.
The Government Accountability Project issued an "action alert" this month, asking federal workers who have filed whistleblower complaints in the past 18 months to contact them regarding how OSC handled their cases. The GAP statement alleges that about 1,000 cases were closed without investigation, "often without even calling the whistleblower."
"We want to develop a record of what has happened to these people," said Tom Devine, legal director of GAP.
Devine is working with the Project on Government Oversight and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, collecting information about how U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch is managing OSC and how the agency has been investigating whistleblower accusations and protecting employees from retaliation.
The organizations have raised concerns that OSC closed about 1,000 cases without giving them a proper assessment. OSC spokeswoman Cathy Deeds said on Tuesday that the project to reduce the backlog of cases was handled by career staff.
Deeds said the agency is confident of its career staff's judgment in analyzing cases. The number of cases receiving further investigation has increased significantly under the Bush administration, she said. Many of the closed cases already were slated for closure before Bloch took office in January 2004, Deeds noted.
Bloch inherited a backlog of about 1,300 cases involving allegations of waste, fraud and mismanagement; complaints of illegal political activity; and charges of use of prohibited personnel practices. A year later, that backlog had been cleared--an action, Bloch has said, that sent a message that the agency meant business when it came to enforcing whistleblower protection laws.
But GAP and other groups charge that Bloch and his staff eliminated the backlog by quickly dismissing cases without thoroughly reviewing their merits.
"It's astonishing to me that these people don't even get a phone call," said Beth Daley, director of communication for POGO. "Frankly, I'm concerned."
OSC has been under fire recently on other fronts. Last month, an OSC staff member and the three whistleblower protection groups filed an anonymous complaint against the agency, alleging that Bloch retaliated against employees who complained about office policies, and forced the relocation of 12 employees.