Washington, DC — Suffering the effects of forced resignations, the U.S. Special Counsel is scrambling to shrink its workload by closing any remaining whistleblower cases, according to minutes from a staff meeting released today by a trio of whistleblower groups. Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed Special Counsel, even wants to enlist summer interns in dismissing hundreds of disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of retaliation filed by federal civil servants seeking help.
The three national whistleblower organizations (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP)) are concerned that whistleblowers who are trying to bring waste, fraud and abuse to light are meeting a dead end at the Office of Special Counsel, an office that is supposed to be a whistleblower advocate. Thus far in his 13-month tenure, Bloch has summarily closed more than 1,000 whistleblower disclosures and complaints without investigation.
“Scott Bloch is running the shabbiest close-out sale in the history of the Whistleblower Protection Act,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Bloch has hired his friends and even his son’s former boarding school headmaster to work with confidential case files. “What a great summer internship—come to our nation’s Capitol and screw over whistleblowers.”
The minutes recount the Employee Advisory Committee meeting of February 9, 2005, attended by Bloch and eight OSC staff members. After approval by Bloch, the minutes were posted on the agency intranet. They show the Special Counsel wrestling with how to drop cases without investigation:
IOSC [Immediate Office of the Special Counsel, i.e., Bloch and his top political aides] is considering the best way to handle case file distribution as employees who have declined the re-assignment leave the agency. One consideration is to try to get as many cases closed as possible prior to the employees departure… The agency will also be getting interns for the summer that will be able to assist with getting cases closed.”
“The Office of Special Counsel has admitted that it has already summarily closed hundreds of whistleblower cases,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight. “Disturbingly, the Special Counsel appears to be now focused on getting rid of all the remaining cases rather than obtaining justice for whistleblowers and the American taxpayer.”
Bloch created a staff shortage in his office when he ordered a dozen investigators and attorneys to move to Dallas or Detroit. Seven declined the move and Bloch is forcing them to resign. Last week, he directed them to turn over their case files, and to stop performing any further work on pending investigations. An eighth employee has already resigned to take other work.
This large personnel displacement leaves Bloch both unable to staff the new office he wishes to open in Detroit and short on staff to handle existing whistleblower cases. The method Bloch has chosen to handle whistleblower cases is to dismiss them without investigation.
“While not every whistleblowers presents a scandal worthy of front page coverage, all are worth at least a phone call to listen,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, pointing to the new policy instituted by Bloch forbidding OSC staff to contact the whistleblower if more information was needed. “In 27 years at GAP, this is the all time low for OSC.”