Is This Why Hillary ‘Lost Her Tone’ the Other Day?

When she blew up at the Greenpeace activist who asked her a civil question, perhaps it was because she cannot stand the momentum shift? She was once invincible and only waiting through the process until election day. But not anymore. The Bernie Sanders campaign sent out this email today, illustrating the huge momentum shift in the past three weeks:

20160403scp.. winning percentages ID,UT,AK,HI,WA & abroad (email from B.Sanders campaign)

The next big step in the Democratic Primary happens on Tuesday, with the caucus in Wisconsin. For what it is worth, I find the Sanders platform attractive because it resonates deeply with the underlying mission of Aviation Impact REFORM. The Sanders platform emphasis is where it needs to be, aimed at producing long-overdue reforms:

  1. maximum transparency
  2. equitable and just treatment of all people
  3. verifiable accountability of government employees and officials
  4. empowerment of individuals and local communities – give the people the data and information, so they can become meaningfully involved
  5. acceptance of the need to rapidly end our dependence on fossil fuels; i.e., taking actions, including in aviation, to address the emerging climate change crisis.

It seems hard to refute that the political party duopoly in the U.S. is insufferable for its abuse of power and enabling of limitless corruption. This corruption consistently benefits corporations and elite wealth, yet hurts the diminishing middle class … and ALWAYS includes rich kickbacks to the politicians nearest the top of the parties. Like Hillary’s $225,000 Wall Street speeches (and, yes, she really does need to share transcript copies!). And the problem is undeniably bipartisan: all of our recent Presidents – both Bushes, as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have reaped huge rewards by acting as ‘cheerleader-in-chief’ for the establishment, while doing nothing about whistleblower retaliations and agencies that blow off the FOIA laws. Think about it: if Hillary cannot even share a speech transcript, why would she EVER be expected to demand FAA release records that show ATC’s watching movies or concealing controller errors? If she is such a beneficiary friend to corporations, how could she EVER insist on cleaning up the NextGen impacts, or demand an end to excessive airline mergers?

Hillary Clinton has made it quite clear: she plans to emulate the Bushes and Bill and Barack. She plans to extend the failed practices of the corrupted modern U.S. duopoly. So, I hope Bernie Sanders does well in Wisconsin and continues onward to eventually win the nomination, as needed to help us all reclaim the future we are losing.

‘2 + 2 = 5’ … and ‘NextGen is Good for the Environment’


A powerful film about human nature, culture, and the indoctrination process. It warns to NOT question authority. It is in Farsi but with English subtitles.

Of course, this short film is also about much more: religion, ascendant fascism, and the whistleblower-retaliation culture that still predominates today’s aviation world.


See also:
  • (CASE STUDY) – A Whistleblower Retaliation Case: Lewis-FAA
  • (8/24/2015) – FAA’s Culture of Corruption & Cover-Up
  • (9/16/2014) – The John Woods Whistleblower Case
  • (10/17/2013) – The NoPay Game: also used against FAA Whistleblowers
  • (SEP 2012) – Open Letter to Congress: Whistleblowers urge Congress to pass WPEA
  • (4/3/2008) – The 4/3/2008 Congressional Hearing about FAA Whistleblowers
  • (REFERENCE) –  aiREFORM webpage about ‘Whistleblowers’

[QUOTE]: FAA’s Culture of Corruption & Cover-Up

Aside

QUOTE

“…Over and over, when the FAA is caught asleep at the wheel, those in charge rattle their sabers, fire low level individuals and allow the management that refuses to play by the rules to stay in power. Soon it all slouches back into a comfy system because the FAA does not like oversight, does not tolerate whistleblowers, and will say whatever it takes for the cameras to stop rolling and the members of Congress to stop having hearings. I know because I shined the light on FAA malfeasance and cover up for five years when I headed the independent oversight agency United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC)….”

– Scott Bloch, in a 5/29/2011 blog post about endemic FAA corruption

Click here to read the original blog post.

The John Woods Whistleblower Case

20140909.. John Woods pic from AlJazeera article
At 32-minutes into Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787, the cameras reveal Starkville, Mississippi and then focus in on the story of Whistleblower John Woods. An expert in the manufacturing of composites for aviation, Mr. Woods spoke up for safety at the South Carolina Boeing plant … and he was soon fired. Click on the YouTube display below, and the video will start at the point in the video where Mr. Woods’ story begins.

Mr. Woods was employed in the private sector, but his story is entirely representative of what happens to FAA air traffic controllers, inspectors, and others who similarly speak up for safety. The fact that he is an older employee with many decades of experience is also notable; often, when FAA retaliates against their own employees, they do so to pressure them into early retirements. The pattern is this:

  1. Employee responsibly speaks up about a safety issue.
  2. The Employer is threatened, and retaliates, eventually firing employee.
  3. Employee files a Whistleblower case to higher authorities, such as to FAA’s Office of Audit & Evaluation (Clay Foushee, manager).
  4. After a lengthy delay, the higher authority concludes nothing can be substantiated and drops the case.

In the end, and often after years of delay, all the Whistleblower case processing gives the Agency or company exactly what they want and need: a cleansing of those ‘problem employees’ who have the audacity to speak up for safety. And the dismissed employees? They are each left trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered life.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”

The aviation Whistleblowers. They speak up about maintenance and design failures. They reveal the ATC errors FAA aggressively conceals. They question the practices that cause fatal accidents.

These men and women should be heroes and yet, amazingly, they are more often banished by their employer. They put their jobs – and the welfare of their families – on the line, simply because they choose the road less traveled.

“…I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

– the closing stanza of ‘The Road Not Taken’, a poem by Robert Frost, November 1916

At FAA, and at all agencies, Whistleblowers are being destroyed by vindictive, self-serving rogue managers. The existing Whistleblower protection laws give the larger Public the illusion that there is real support for Whistleblowers, but in fact these laws enable further Whistleblower retaliation. The rogue managers are never held accountable; these laws continue to fail.

This world increasingly needs ‘a few good Whistleblowers’. Support is needed from Congress, and from people who care enough to demand safety, efficiency, and a just system. A change is long overdue. Please join us and advocate for laws that ensure real Whistleblower support.

Please Donate your MSPB Docket!

An excellent idea was announced by David Pardo at MSPBWatch: he is asking those of us who have been through the hell of an MSPB Appeal to share our documents.

The goal, quite simply, is to shine a bright light on just how totally failed MSPB is. The Merit Systems Protection Board has been wasting funds year after year, to create the illusion that the merit systems of federal employees are being protected. The money they spend does not go to true justice; it goes to myopic and unsupported rationalizations to close cases and obstruct justice.

Federal employees are not being protected; I can personally attest to that failure. MSPB uses a ‘Rocket Docket’ to rush appellants through a futile process that almost never tells the agencies to clean up their act. My own MSPB Case thoroughly documents this MSPB failure. MSPBWatch hopes to produce many more revealing examples of MSPB failure.

In essence, too many of us get screwed over by a broken process, but at the end we are so exhausted or depressed that we never share what happened. Still worse, this very process was implemented by Congress decades ago, to justify removing our legal due process!

When we fail to report these failures, the few rogue managers and agencies are not held accountable, and the cycle is repeated all over again upon the next crop of victims. To get out of this cycle, one of the smartest moves we can make is to share the details. Here’s the link to the Post at MSPBWatch.

New aiREFORM page about Office of Special Counsel

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) was formed in 1978, with passage of the Civil Service Reform Act. OSC has been disappointing federal Whistleblowers ever since, at FAA and at other agencies.

Many good FAA employees have spoken up about safety, fraud, waste and other failures, and some of them have felt the need to turn to OSC for help. There have been some success stories, but these are few and far between. In fact, most FAA Whistleblowers who have asked for OSC’s help have only seen their energy diverted and their morale further destroyed. And, many have lost their jobs while OSC fumbles around for lack of funds to do what Congress intended OSC to do.

True reform at FAA will require effective handling of Whistleblower contributions. This is not happening within today’s FAA (Clay Foushee’s Audit & Evaluation office appears to be just window dressing), so any reform will require a more effective OSC.

A new aiREFORM page has been produced. It provides FAQ’s and links, on the following topics:

  • What is the history and purpose of OSC?
  • Who are the key people within OSC?
  • What is a disclosure, and how do I file it?
  • Can the Public see the record on Disclosures?
  • What is OSC’s process for FAA WB disclosures?
  • How might OSC improve their transparency & performance?
OSC: FAQ’s & links …a link to the page at aiREFORM…

 

Our failed Whistleblower Laws

Many of the values and beliefs of a society are formed by childhood routines. In my generation, we all grew up pledging our allegiance at the start of each school day; we proudly held our hand on our heart and said the words while thinking of our past heroes and our future national glory.

Don Reed, an air traffic controller fired at Pueblo, after he exercised his religious freedom rights. He later won a unanimous jury decision, awarding him $2.25 Million for FAA’s improper actions.

One of the values so indoctrinated was Religious Freedom. We knew the history, and we resolved to protect, just as our forefathers had done. The clear idea was that the state (as in, elected officials as well as agencies like FAA, chock full of employees and contractors) must not impinge on the right of the individual to practice their chosen faith. In the early 1990’s an air traffic controller in Colorado chose his faith over the work scheduling demands of his ATC job. And so it was, for this defiant exercise of a protected right, that FAA chose to fire Don Reed.

Now, the interesting thing about this is that Mr. Reed stood his ground. He went to the U.S. District Court, used the legal process, got a jury trial, and he won. He won because of one other vaunted and priceless value we all had indoctrinated during our school days: that no individual should be denied his or her right to a jury trial. The simple idea that our system must protect our Due Process right* to be heard and to be treated fairly.

*What is Due Process? It is the legal requirement that the state must respect all of the legal rights that are owed to a person. Typically, “Due process” means:
1) NOTICE, generally written, but some courts have determined, in rare circumstances, other types of notice suffice[citations needed]. Notice should provide sufficient detail to fully inform the individual of the decision or activity that will have an effect on his/her rights or property or person.
2) right to GRIEVE (that being the right to complain or to disagree with the governmental actor/entity which has decision making authority) and
3) the right to APPEAL if not satisfied with the outcome of the grievance procedure.
Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects the individual person from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due-process violation, which offends against the rule of law. (copied from wikipedia)
Suppose for a moment that, instead of being fired for a religious freedom issue, Mr. Reed had been fired in 1995 for speaking up about an FAA safety failure or details being concealed from the investigation of a fatal accident. Had he filed at the U.S. District Court, his case would have been dismissed. Agency counsel would have argued that Mr. Reed had failed to exhaust his administrative options (OSC and MSPB), and the Judge would have promptly agreed. And by the time all of that was done, OSC and MSPB would have giggled while rejecting his Appeal: “Sorry, Don, but you filed too late; you should have come to us first.”

Mr. Reed won his civil action because he had the right to demand a jury trial in a U.S. District Court. Guess what: Whistleblowers do not have that same right. Sadly, Whistleblowers are routinely denied the right to a fair trial. That right was taken away from Whistleblowers decades ago. When Congress passed the Civil Service Reform Act in 1978, they were thinking ‘gee, we can unburden the court system if we offload these cases to be handled administratively by a new Merit Systems Protection Board’. And, similarly,they were thinking, ‘gee, we can also require Whistleblowers to go through the Office of Special Counsel’.

Here’s the problem: creating these new administrative processes for hearing a Whistleblower case meant that Federal Whistleblowers could no longer go directly to the U.S. District Courts. Their legal rights were taken away. It also meant that all Federal Whistleblowers became dependent on the Administrative Judges (AJ’s) and federal employees at MSPB and OSC to do their jobs. And that is precisely where this is failing, for the AJ’s and the MSPB/OSC employees are not doing their jobs as Congress had designed. They are not accountable and, in fact, it appears that what they mostly do is watch the calendar and clean up their backlog when they need to each year, so as to qualify for performance bonuses. Not surprisingly, the best way to clean up that backlog is to compel settlements that are nearly always severely tilted to the benefit of the rogue officials running amok and destroying lives within their corrupted agencies. Frankly, this is the type of non-performance we can all expect where budgets are limited, transparency is minimal, and accountability is absent.

Due Process. It is at the heart of our legal system. Without real and meaningful Due Process, the rights of individuals will be trashed. And Federal Whistleblowers, whether serving in aviation or medicine or social service or finance or anywhere in the federal government, will be muted. Is it any wonder than, that agencies like FAA are straying so far from their Public Service mission?

Imagine a world where agency failures are concealed from Public view, and where Whistleblowers are strongly encouraged to just shut up, close their eyes, and be happy for their paycheck. We are living there. Today.

If you were a Federal Whistleblower, it might look like this…

With the recent news story about NSA spying on ’email metadata’, we are made all the more aware that we do not know (and may not trust) if our government is looking into our emails, too. We also realize, we need to understand the hazards faced by Whistleblowers, and why they cannot just report a problem into their organization — or to the other government entities (like OSC and MSPB) intended to support Whistleblowers….
<< <> <<>> <> >>

Suppose you are a Federal employee, working for Agency-X, and for years you have seen a routine practice that exposes the public to unnecessary risk; a problem that likely will eventually cause someone to be killed in an accident.

The legal process for a typical Whistleblower:

In a normal scenario, a Whistleblower speaks up about a problem, then endures retaliation, then files a complaint ‘hoping’ to be made whole after the retaliation.
For Federal employees, adjudication of that complaint is done by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and/or the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). These are both quasi-judicial entities, crafted by Congress in the 1970’s, with rigid and legalistic procedures.
A typical Whistleblower has zero legal knowledge, but does his/her best to correctly submit the paperwork and navigate the process at OSC and/or MSPB. The typical Whistleblower, inclined to be idealistic (or some might say naive), goes into this process with no awareness that both OSC and MSPB have horrible histories, in which they drag out the process and drain the Whistleblower’s energy and spirit, almost always siding with the agency.

You say to your coworkers, ‘hey, we need to change this’; some of them quietly agree but take no action, and some of them start to distance themselves from you. You elevate the concern to your manager, and they simply blow it off. You elevate it to a higher manager or an office at the Agency-X national headquarters, maybe even a hotline intended to intake such concerns. The next thing you know, your loyalty and performance are being questioned, and YOU are being subjected to regular scrutiny, minor discipline, and other disparate actions.

You think, ‘wow, this is weird, I have served fifteen years here, been well recognized, done a lot of good things, and yet now I am a ‘problem’ because I try to help us all do better … weird’. The discipline escalates, maybe you even get fired. When you receive your first letter formally declaring an ‘adverse action’ (they decided to fire you or suspend you for more than 14-days), the boilerplate at the end of the letter informs you of your right to file an appeal at MSPB. Of course, you know nothing about MSPB, but on the other hand, you are thrilled at the opportunity to have your case objectively reviewed away from the corruption you are increasingly seeing within Agency-X. You file the MSPB Appeal papers and proceed toward an eventual hearing before an Administrative Judge (AJ).

A point needs to be emphasized: you are a Federal Whistleblower, but you have no legal training. So, even the paperwork (a.k.a., ‘pleadings’) format used at MSPB is quite daunting to you. On the other hand, you are now engaged in an adversarial relationship before MSPB. Your adversary is a trained attorney, serving within the Agency-X legal office. Most likely, your adversary handles MSPB cases all the time, and even knows the AJ well enough that they would say ‘hi’ to each other in a grocery line. You, on the other hand, are just a hard-working, concerned Federal employee who blew the whistle and is trying to be made whole for the improper retaliation done to you by a rogue Agency-X manager. You are climbing a steep learning-curve, slowly acquiring an understanding of how the legal process works. You engage in ‘Discovery’, seeking to compel Agency-X to produce emails and other records you know exist, and which will prove to the AJ that you were indeed retaliated against.

So how does Attorney-Client Privilege impact a Whistleblower?

A closer look at Attorney-Client Privilege

Most of us have no idea what the term “Attorney-Client Privilege” means, until we are rudely informed in a legal decision. In the case of Federal Whistleblowers, this decision tends to be painful, as it often coincides with the dismissal of our appeal. That is, when we spoke up about a problem and thus threatened our employing agency, they retaliated, and now our efforts at justice are blocked.
When legal disputes develop, they proceed toward a court where (hopefully) a full and fair judgment will be made. That judgment will happen after both sides of the dispute are presented. Most people retain the services of an attorney to present their side, though some people proceed ‘pro se’, representing the case on their own.
We all have a basic right to not self-incriminate. When we retain an attorney, that attorney becomes an extension of our basic right; i.e., anything and everything we share with our counsel is to be protected from disclosure. The theory is not just about protecting the client’s basic rights, but also about encouraging the client to be fully open with his/her attorney. Nobody disputes that maximizing candor and transparency will provide the highest probability for an optimally fair decision by a court.

There are a few images burned into your mind from this whole difficult experience. One is the sweaty, shaking discomfort on the face of the Agency-X manager when he/she issued you the disciplinary letter, and directed you to sign it. It was quite evident that the letter was ordered from above, maybe much higher, by an unidentified bureaucrat. You engage in Discovery to reveal the real decision-maker, to establish what ‘facts’ they were operating from. And, you run into a problem. The Agency-X attorney is claiming ‘Attorney-Client Privilege’, and MSPB is accepting that stance, thus blocking your Discovery request.

It turns out, some of the critical emails that led to your discipline were eventually shared with the legal office at Agency-X. This was not done in a conventional way, to protect a client in a legal matter; no, this was done as a form of evidence ‘laundering’. MSPB is good with accepting this as establishing an attorney-client relationship; therefore, that evidence is now ‘privileged’ and will not be provided to Discovery. You are screwed, because you cannot provide the smoking-gun evidence MSPB needs to see to tell Agency-X to undo your discipline and clean up their act.

It gets worse: there are other ‘Privileges’

The ‘privilege’ to conceal information applies not just to discussions between an attorney and a client; it also applies to the work done by the attorney, and the deliberation between officials that leads to a decision, such as your firing.

The ‘Attorney Work-Product Privilege’ seems reasonable; it ensures an attorney will not be forced to divulge his/her strategies and other works created while serving a client.

The ‘Deliberative Process Privilege’, on the other hand, is commonly abused by agencies to deny FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. It is little more than a tool to dodge accountability. The rationale used by an agency such as FAA, when they deny records citing deliberative process privilege, is that they do not want to “…discourage candid discussions within the agency and thereby undermine the agency’s ability to perform its functions….”

What this translates to is this: the public is not allowed to see what happened within a meeting, if the agency simply declares it was ‘pre-decisional’. And, naturally, EVERYTHING becomes labeled ‘pre-decisional’.

<< <> <<>> <> >>

The full consequence of these ‘privileges’ is this: Federal agencies are allowed to hide key records, virtually guaranteeing that the damaged Federal Whistleblower will be unable to prove the retaliation. MSPB and OSC have been remarkably non-aggressive in pressing agencies to produce these records, and agency managers have long known they will not be held accountable.

Is it any wonder, than, that Whistleblower cases continue to happen, and that so many people are afraid to speak up?

The time for reform is long past due.

<< <> <<>> <> >>

An Example of Attorney-Client Privilege abuse in a recent MSPB decision

An MSPB AJ in Denver heard a case about a U.S. Department of Agriculture manager, who had filed an MSPB Appeal charging he was retaliated against after blowing the whistle. The AJ essentially sided with the Appellant (Shibuya). USDA wanted a different outcome, so they filed a PFR (Petition for Review) at MSPB. The PFR was accepted by MSPB (many are rejected) and then reviewed by the three current Board members: Susan Tsui Grundmann, Anne Wagner, and Mark Robbins. Upon review, the full MSPB found the AJ had erred. Their 6/14/13 decision, Shibuya v. USDA, vacated the AJ’s decision, and the case was remanded to the Denver Field Office for further adjudication.

Here is an excerpt from the 6/14/13 decision, where MSPB offers their assessment of how attorney-client privilege was abused. [Appellant is the USDA Manager; Mr. Wiley is his private attorney]:

“…Regarding purpose of the arrangement, the record contains an email dated September 6, 2008, in which Mr. Wiley stated that “[s]ince we have this standing contract, you might as well take advantage of my lawyer-ness.” He informed the appellant that he would only make comments that were “absolutely necessary,” that his review “shouldn’t cost more than a couple of tenths of an hour,” and that charging the agency for his review would “remove any doubt that this is an official lawyer-client relationship . . . . That’s a cheap easy procedure to keep a critical document away from the dark side.” IAF-0390, Tab 5, Subtab 4h at 1. Mr. Wiley further advised the appellant that case analyses should be emailed to him so that the documents could be issued with an attorney-client privilege statement. Id. We find that the weight of the record evidence supports the agency’s position that the purpose of Mr. Wiley’s review was to prevent the disclosure of case analyses drafted by agency employees in future third-party proceedings by creating the appearance that the case analyses were privileged documents.

The MSPB then weighed in on whether this arrangement was appropriate:

…we find that it contravenes the agency’s obligation during litigation to disclose non-privileged, discoverable information when requested by the other party, and not to fabricate a privilege in order to prevent the discovery of information. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) and (b)(5)(B). FRCP, Rule #26 Attorney-client privilege exists for the sake of the attorney-client relationship—not the other way around. See Fisher v. United States, 425 U.S. 391 (1976) (the purpose of attorney-client privilege is to encourage clients to make full disclosure to their attorneys, and it only applies where necessary to achieve that purpose). We find that this scheme was an abuse of the privilege and that the agency was right to be concerned by it. The Board takes the integrity of its discovery process seriously. We do not condone the specious “attorney-client relationship” that the appellant and Mr. Wiley cooked up in order to play some procedural game with our administrative judges….
<< <> <<>> <> >>
Metadata Mining is Mega Awful – ADDED 6/20/13: a post by Jim Hightower.

 

Inside OSC: Sr. Legal Advisor Jason Zuckerman

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is the lead advocate in the U.S. government, for the protection of federal employees against whistleblower retaliation. OSC has existed since 1979, and their performance history has included numerous stretches of ineffectiveness. However, that appears to have changed, after Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner was sworn in at OSC, on June 17, 2011.  OSC has since become largely rejuvenated and is beginning to provide timely and in-depth whistleblower support.

One of the important members of Ms. Lerner’s staff is Jason Zuckerman, who became her Senior Legal Advisor in July 2011. Online documents shed light on the professional background and values of Mr. Zuckerman. Here is an excerpt from an article he wrote in the Fall 2006 issue of Docket Call, the newsletter of the Young Lawyers Conference at the Virginia State Bar:

“Eleven years ago, I was contemplating a response to a law school application essay about what inspired me to become a lawyer. I wrote my essay about Atticus Finch, the attorney in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird who stands up for justice by defending an African American falsely accused of raping a Caucasian woman in the Depression-era South. Going into law school, I hoped to become a civil rights lawyer.

“While I was fortunate to do a lot of volunteer legal work in law school for prison inmates, I did not go into public interest law immediately after law school. The opportunity to get good training and pay off law school loans led me to practice at a big firm in D.C. While I had a much better experience at a big firm than I would have ever expected, I realized five years out of law school that I wanted my practice to focus more on serving the public interest. About a year and a half ago, I started my own practice focused on representing whistleblowers in retaliation claims and in qui tam actions. As I read about recent surveys showing record associate dissatisfaction, despite record salaries, I feel fortunate to have found a practice that is very satisfying and rewarding. The following are some of the reasons to consider practicing whistleblower law:

Exposing Fraud

“Representing whistleblowers is about more than just pursuing a client’s pecuniary interest. Litigating whistleblower cases serves a public interest by exposing and in some cases, rectifying fraud and threats to public health and safety. In just the past year, I represented individuals who blew the whistle on lax security at a nuclear power plant, unsafe work conditions, deficient aircraft maintenance, predatory lending, billing fraud in a government contract, Medicare fraud, accounting fraud, and securities fraud….”

That was 2006. Six years later, Ms. Lerner and Mr. Zuckerman had both been on board at OSC for a year, and news articles about OSC performance had become predominantly positive, when this June 2012 interview was done by Camille Tuutti at FCW.com:

FCW: How can federal managers foster a more ethical culture, especially amid budget pressures and anti-government sentiments?
Zuckerman: I’m glad that you ask about culture because in my experience representing whistleblowers, culture makes all the difference. Optimal policies or procedures don’t amount to much if the culture is broken.

Management must make ongoing efforts to reinforce an ethical culture. This includes offering ongoing training, rewarding ethical conduct and holding employees at every level accountable for unethical conduct. Management must lead by example and set the right tone at the top. For example, management should praise employees for disclosing wasteful spending or unethical conduct.

FCW: What can federal managers and employees do if faced with an ethical dilemma?
Zuckerman: The Merit System Principles and the 14 principles of ethical conduct are a good starting point to assess the best path forward when confronting an ethical dilemma.

The first principle is that “public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.” In other words, federal employees have a duty to act in the public interest and should oppose unlawful or unethical conduct.

Similarly, ethics principle No. 11 requires employees to disclose waste, fraud, abuse and corruption to appropriate authorities, and merit principle No. 4 requires federal employees to maintain concern for the public interest.

Disclosing wasteful spending, gross mismanagement, and dangers to public health or safety is an important responsibility of every federal employee. But understandably, many employees fear reprisal, and fortunately, employees can disclose wrongdoing anonymously to an inspector general or to OSC.

It’s important for an employee to understand the scope and limitations of applicable whistleblower protection laws, including loopholes that leave whistleblowers with little or no protection against reprisal. Hopefully, those loopholes will be eliminated if Congress enacts the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.

FCW: You have said that the number of whistle-blower cases filed with OSC has increased. What is behind that trend?
Zuckerman: OSC is experiencing significant increases in its caseload in all program areas, including a substantial increase in whistleblower disclosures and whistleblower retaliation complaints. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner has injected a new vigor in the agency and raised the public profile of OSC. Over the past year, OSC has handled several high-profile matters, demonstrating its critical role in helping whistleblowers disclose and remediate waste, fraud and abuse, and other wrongdoing and showing that OSC will protect whistleblowers who suffer reprisal.

As OSC becomes more visible and continues to demonstrate its effectiveness, more employees will disclose wrongdoing to OSC and seek relief when they are subjected to whistleblower retaliation. Also, at a time when government is focused on cost cutting, more employees understand the importance of identifying and reporting wasteful spending, gross mismanagement and abuse of authority. Indeed, disclosures to OSC about wasteful or improper spending go a long way in promoting efficiency and accountability in government and saving taxpayer dollars.

 

<>   <<>>   <>

A closing thought, regarding OSC’s resurrection, and how it relates to FAA…

It is beyond dispute that FAA’s work culture was seriously dysfunctional by the end of 2008; that, for air traffic controllers, the years of imposed work rules and draconian maltreatment had taken a great toll. It is also quite clear, from the record, that other agencies that were essentially broken in late 2008 included FLRA, MSPB, NTSB and OSC. Since then, both NTSB and OSC have made great progress. MSPB has improved substantially. The report card on FLRA is not clear.

FAA is the only one of these five agencies that has failed to clean up. Especially, in view of the latest failures exposed by the Dreamliner battery fires, FAA remains in failure mode, mired in a deep mud-pit of dysfunction.

We face major serious economic changes in our funding of government. Soon, the Public will demand: FAA must clean up its act. OSC can help make that happen, if they will assist the many whistleblowers who have been clearly damaged by this rogue agency.


UPDATE, 10/4/2014:Mr. Zuckerman left OSC in November 2013.