Self Preservation and the Whistleblower

CERDAFIED - Some say whistleblower advocates won a small victory this year when the Senate approved new legislation that will “Overturn court decisions that narrowed protections for government whistleblowers” and “Give whistleblower protections to employees who are not currently covered, including Transportation Security Administration officers.”
But that’s not all, it will also “Restore the Office of Special Counsel’s ability to seek disciplinary actions against supervisors who retaliate” and “hold agencies accountable for retaliatory investigations.”
 
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) will be enforced by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) which consists of presidential appointees and 110 employees. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) championed the WPEA cause. Though if this is progress it falls short of real protection.
 
Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project said, “House Republicans blocked two cornerstones of the legislation: jury trials to enforce newly-enacted protections, and extension of free speech rights to national security workers making disclosures within agency channels.”
 
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) was created to” improve government efficiency and effectiveness by helping to ensure that a stable, highly qualified Federal workforce, was free from partisan political pressure, was available to provide effective service to the American people.” The Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) inherited the adjudication functions of the CSC and provides due process to employees and agencies as an independent, third-party adjudicatory authority for employee appeals of adverse actions. 
 
The MSPB claims to rule in favor of the whistleblower in fewer than 2% of its cases. In fiscal year 2008, non-benefit MSPB initial dockets had a rate of 1.7% success in favor of the appellant out of 4,698 cases. The MSPB is accused of failing to enforce its own orders, refusing to take any action at all when an agency witness is caught committing perjury, and allowing agencies to take reprisal against employees.
 
What is a whistleblower to do? Stephen Kohn, author of “The Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself” has important legal advice for whistleblowers based on reviewing thousands of claims and securing millions of dollars in settlements for his clients. Kohn and 19 top whistleblowers are donating thousands of his books to libraries across America in order to get this information out.
 
Kohn states that most cases are lost due to technical blunders that can be avoided. His book covers anecdotes, case studies, laws and services that are available. This information not only protects the whistleblowers job but can also lead to a cash reward at times. . His cases have saved taxpayers at least $5 billion in waste, fraud, and abuse.
 
There is, of course, a statute of limitations, and cases must be filed in a timely manner and through the proper channels. Protect yourself from retaliation and other misconduct by hiring an attorney before taking action. Do not fall victim to the theory that others will want to do the “right thing” just because you do. You may start out with support from lower management, but it may crumble as the case unfolds or moves up the corporate ladder.
 
A recent whistleblower case is getting new attention in Germany. Gustl Mollath, claimed his wife, who worked as an asset consultant at the Hypo Vereinsbank as well as staff, were illegally smuggling large sums of money into Switzerland. Lo and behold, recent evidence shows that money-laundering activities were indeed practiced by members of staff at the Munich-based bank over a period of several years according to an internal audit. 
 
Mollath had been locked away in a psychiatric hospital following his claims, after court experts diagnosed him with paranoid personality disorder, several years ago. His ex-wife accused him of causing her physical harm and he denied the charges.
 
A number of bank employees were fired, including Mollath's ex-wife, following the bank's investigation. The bank did not go to the authorities when Mollath’s accusations proved to be true.  Mollath remains locked away and public pressure to free him and investigate the judge in the matter is strong. 
 
In another case, dating back to 1953, Frank Olson died under suspicious circumstances while working closely with the CIA. Frank was a bio-weapons expert who specialized in aerobiology. He worked with a special operations division of the Army’s biological laboratory. 
 
According to the lawsuit filed by Frank’s sons, Eric and Nils Olson, “The circumstances surrounding the death mirrored those detailed in an assassination manual that, upon information and belief, the CIA had drafted that same year.”
 
Dr. Olson had witnessed “extreme interrogations in which the CIA committed murder using biological agents that Dr. Olson had developed,” while traveling to Europe. “Concerned that Dr. Olson had serious misgivings related to those murders and might therefore pose a security risk, Dr. Sargent recommended to his superiors that Dr. Olson no longer have access to classified research facilities in Britain.”
 
Shortly thereafter, Olson considered resigning, and was forced to attend a meeting in Deep Creek, Maryland, with men from the CIA. At dinner, Olson drank from a bottle of Cointreau that had been laced with LSD by CIA agents Sidney Gottlieb and Robert Lashbrook,who were allegedly acting without authority.
 
Olson fell 75ft to his death from his hotel window under suspicious circumstances. A cover up ensued and his family was repeated given false information on the cause of death.  A 1975 government report on CIA activities in the US said that he committed suicide after being given LSD without his knowledge. But a 1994 autopsy revealed that contrary to the medical examiner’s report at the time of death, there was an undisclosed hematoma on Dr. Olson’s temple and there were no lacerations on Dr. Olson’s body consist with jumping through a glass window.
 
In this case, Olson never got the chance to file a complaint, make an allegation against the CIA, transfer or leave his post. Simply seen as a security threat he was allegedly disposed of, and the cover up continued for nearly 60 years.
 
While most whistleblower cases report financial fraud and abuse, there are times when lives are endangered. Whistleblowers deserve better protection, and the MSPB has a 98% rate of protecting the offenders. 
 
(Lisa Cerda is a contributor to CityWatch, a community activist, Chair of Tarzana Residents Against Poorly Planned Development, VP of Community Rights Foundation of LA, Tarzana Property Owners Association board member, and former Tarzana Neighborhood Council board member.) –cw
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 101
Pub: Dec 18, 2012