OSC honors Dover whistleblowers

Dover Air Force Base mortuary employees Mary Ellen Spera, Bill Zwicharowski, and James Parsons. Dover Air Force Base mortuary employees Mary Ellen Spera, Bill Zwicharowski, and James Parsons. Patrick Semansky/AP
Three whistleblowers were honored Thursday for helping to identify mismanagement at Dover Air Force Base mortuary.


The Office of Special Counsel, the independent federal agency responsible for investigating claims brought forth by whistleblowers, awarded James Parsons, Mary Ellen Spera and William Zwicharowski with the 2011 Public Servant of the Year Award.

The three members of the Delaware congressional delegation were on hand for the event, commending the whistleblowers for the “courageous and brave” steps they took to shine a light on the problem.

“Thank you,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., “for speaking truth to power . . . you did the right thing, not the easy thing.”

Rep. John Carney, D-Del., emphasized the mortuary workers’ willingness to put their jobs in jeopardy to right the situation.

“When something, as in this case, gets out of order, it’s important to have people willing to risk their job,” he said.

OSC, which first gave out the public servant award in 1999, led an investigation that found the Dover mortuary misplaced bodies and removed body parts of the deceased military personnel without permission. After the OSC analysis, the mortuary reinstituted of one of the whistleblowers who had been fired, disciplined the managers who punished employees for publicly acknowledging the problem and ensured the whistleblowers’ grievances be remedied.

“You saved my job,” an emotional Zwicharowski, one of the whistleblowers, said to the OSC staff around him at the ceremony, “and you probably saved my life. I thank you.”

He added his inspiration to speak out came from his desire to honor those who gave their lives for the country.

“Our fallen deserve nothing less,” he said. “Their service is the only reason we stand here today and we are free.”

Parsons, another honoree, said he was just doing his job and he is looking forward to putting the whole ordeal behind him.

“It’s nice to have the closure,” he said. “We can move on now.”

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