This story has been updated.
The White House on Friday announced the nomination of career prosecutor and veteran Capitol Hill staffer Henry Kerner to lead the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency that combats prohibited personnel practices and retaliation against whistleblowers governmentwide.
Kerner, currently assistant vice president for investigations at the conservative-leaning transparency group Cause of Action Institute, led staff investigations “into the federal bureaucracy” for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under current Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and previous Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the White House stated.
Previously Kerner was staff director for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and before that, he spent 20 years as a prosecutor in California. He is a graduate of Harvard law school.
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Among Kerner’s recent activities at Cause of Action was filing a lawsuit this spring against the Environmental Protection Agency demanding employee records created through the encrypted software “Signal,” which critics believe employees were using to express their discontent with the Trump administration’s new policies at EPA. The EPA said it found no such records.
“The EPA’s response to our lawsuit is unsurprising, but still deeply disturbing,” Kerner said in a March statement. “The unauthorized use of an encrypted messaging app by a government employee is inappropriate, and the EPA appears to agree that its employees might have broken the law.”
Current Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, whose extended five-year term ends in June, told Government Executive Friday that she looked forward "to working with [Kerner] on a smooth transition at the OSC."
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., issued a statement applauding the nominee 's "valuable perspective." He said he looked forward to "promptly considering Mr. Kerner's nomination and partnering with the Office of Special Counsel to protect and empower federal whistleblowers."