The Key Records improperly concealed by FAA officials…

…which Lewis later obtained, mostly via FOIA.

Background:

Lewis hired on with FAA in late 1986. He fully certified at towers in Oregon, Colorado and California.

He was abruptly locked out from his control tower on 2/16/07, then fired on 11/6/08. He had been ordered to stay home for twenty-one months, and he collected pay for most of that time. FAA officials had no documents supporting their removal action.

Lewis filed an Appeal at MSPB and needed FAA officials to produce all records. The records remained hidden by FAA officials, and Lewis was forced to ‘retire’ if he wanted the pension he had earned. After this forced retirement, Lewis filed a series of FOIA requests and slowly collected the key records, showing what FAA officials had hidden during the MSPB Appeal process.

The revealed records are provided here. It is hoped that by sharing these, others will be able to stop federal officials from repeating these improper retaliations…

The concealment effectively obstructed Lewis’ right to Due Process.

FAA officials presented him with a disciplinary action, but denied him the records needed for his own defense. Had the full record been revealed, Lewis would have been fully exonerated. His only true offense was extremely trivial: one time, in a discussion about the hazing aspect of ATC training, he non-disparagingly quoted a Randy Newman lyric with the n-word.

FAA officials concealed many records, denying Lewis access to documents and facts needed for his defense. When he was fired on 11/6/08, Lewis knew very little about his case. He knew that he had been locked out in February 2007; he knew that he had been issued an admonishment letter in July 2007; he knew that he had lost roughly $40,000 during enforced leave; he knew that he had restored his ATC medical clearance in January 2008; he knew that in April 2008 he had been told a “return to work plan” would be discussed; and, he knew that he had just been inexplicably fired.

It was many years AFTER Lewis was fired (and then forced to retire, if he wanted to receive his pension), that the concealed FAA records were obtained, mostly via Lewis’ persistent FOIA requests.

These FAA records reveal all the important details that could not be presented to the MSPB: the extensive coordination between FAA officials; the many alternate (and lesser) sanction plans, including a plan to reassign him to Santa Rosa Tower, and a letter proposing a 14-day suspension drafted in April 2008; the many substantial slanders by Dr. Stephen Goodman, Jason Ralph, Dick Fossier, Andy Richards and Naomi Tsuda; the many clearly false statements made by LR acting Manager Dan Castrellon to continue forward with the removal; and, the still-not-yet explained behind-the-scenes involvement of Tony DiBernardo.

<> <<>> <>

Here is a list, of some of these key records, with links to copies…
link
(hover over the gray-box links below for brief descriptions)

<> <<>> <>

2/2/07: A slander by Jason Ralph
Lewis’ manager at CCR ATCT, Jason Ralph, was interviewed by Vicki Hendrickson, an FAA employee in Renton, WA. Ms. Hendrickson’s role was simply to collect the information about the conduct allegations, and forward the ‘AB Intake Form’ to the Accountability Board. Jason Ralph named four of Lewis’ coworkers, claiming the four had heard Lewis say: “Us Niggers cannot get any leave around here.” Jason Ralph alone made this claim, yet none of the four coworkers ever made the claim. All four coworkers signed statements (three in late January, and the other in mid-February), and not one of those signed statements supported (or even hinted at) Jason Ralph’s allegation. Then, in late March 2007, all four gave sworn interviews for the ROI; just like the first time, none of the four supported Jason Ralph’s allegation. On Tuesday, 2/6/07, Ms. Hendrickson sent the finished ‘AB Intake Form’, with the slanders by Jason Ralph, in an email to numerous FAA officials, including Andrew Robinson at FAA’s Accountability Board, in Washington, DC.
[concealed from foia in 2007 & 2008];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[concealed again via FOIA redaction in December 2009];
[revealed via FOIA appeal on 3/8/10]link

2/16/07: Notes taken at the VIWP teleconference
Lewis departed on approved sickleave, just after 10AM. He learned months later that his manager, Jason Ralph, convened a ‘Violence in the Workplace‘ (ViWP) teleconference. Attending this teleconference were Barry Davis at the WSA-Terminal office (representing Teri Bristol, in Renton, WA), and medical/legal/HR/security officials from FAA’s Western Pacific Regional Office (AWP) in LA. A key participant was Cindy Lopez-Hickson, the AWP EAP Manager. She recorded detailed notes in her ‘Memo for the Record’. During the hour following the ViWP Teleconference, Ms. Lopez-Hickson coordinated the next action with AWP Medical, Legal, and LR officials. Ms. Lopez-Hickson was the source of two letters: a 2/16/07 letter initiating Lewis’ lockout; and, a 3/12/07 letter  ordering Lewis to get a medical evaluation at his own expense. That letter also directed Lewis to have the doctor send his report to Jason Ralph.
[improperly left out of ROI in 2007];
[concealed from foia in 2007 & 2008];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[concealed via redaction from a subsequent foia in late 2009];
[revealed via FOIA appeal on 3/15/10]link

2/20/07: FAA Security’s ‘Detailed Incident Report’
Immediately after Jason Ralph requested a Violence in the Workplace (ViWP) teleconference, Security officials at FAA’s Western Pacific Regional Office ordered an official incident report. It was produced by FAA Special Agent Sarita Burr, who interviewed Jason Ralph. Her report was completed and recorded on Tuesday afternoon, 2/20/07, just four days after the ViWP Teleconference. FAA Security then followed up with a full-blown Report of Investigation (ROI), in which eight people were interviewed in late March. In his 3/21/07 interview, Jason Ralph made numerous statements that fully contradicted his statements provided to Agent Burr’s more timely ‘Detailed Incident Report’. When the ROI was completed by FAA Special Agent James Austin, he ensured the contradictory ‘Detailed Incident Report’ was NOT included as an exhibit.
[improperly left out of ROI in 2007];
[concealed from foia in 2007 & 2008];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed via FOIA on 6/29/09]link

6/13/07: LR specialist Dick Fossier emails his concerns
LR Specialist Dick Fossier sent a 9:40am email to Dr. Stephen Goodman, the AWP Regional Flight Surgeon (RFS), with cc’s to Jason Ralph and Cindy Lopez-Hickson. Mr. Fossier noted that he (and Ms. Lopez-Hickson) had just finished a phone conversation with Lewis, and he expressed a concern that Lewis may not have been properly notified about the reasons behind the withdrawal of his medical clearance. He asked Dr. Goodman to confirm that the actions were taken, to comply with the imposed contract. Dr. Goodman’s reply did not answer. Another round of emails immediately followed, and this time Dr. Goodman answered: he was relying on Jason Ralph to make the proper notifications.
FOR THE RECORD … Mr. Fossier had discovered a serious flaw in the case, and all details were fully concealed from Lewis and from the MSPB. Lewis was not given these emails until March 2010, a full year after the ‘forced-voluntary’ retirement.
[left out of Lewis’ medical files in summer 2007];
[concealed from foia in 2007, 2008 & 2009];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed via FOIA on 3/18/10]link

7/6/07: medical records privacy violation
FAA’s Regional Flight Surgeon, Dr. Stephen Goodman, sent a 2:42pm email to LR Specialist Dick Fossier. He advised that Lewis’ medical file was on his desk for viewing, and he would be gone all week. Two days later, Mr. Fossier forwarded this email to Dennis Sullivan (Lewis’ District Manager), Barry Davis (the senior advisor for WSA terminal operations, in Renton), and Jason Ralph (Lewis’ manager). Nobody reported this privacy violation.
[left out of Lewis’ medical files in summer 2007];
[concealed from foia in 2007 & 2008];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed via FOIA on 12/3/09]link

12/3/07: A reassignment to Santa Rosa is proposed
Senior Advisor Barry Davis sent a 3:10pm email to his boss, Teri Bristol, who was in charge of all towers in the Western Service Area. Mr. Davis’ email was for the purpose of briefing Ms. Bristol for her next meeting with regional NATCA VP Ham Ghafarri. Mr. Davis noted in his email that District Manager Andy Richards wanted to reassign Lewis to the tower at Santa Rosa. Barry Davis also advised Teri Bristol that there was a ‘timeliness’ issue; he was referring to the fact that Lewis had been locked out for nearly ten months, mostly in a fully paid status.
[concealed from foia in 2008 & 2009];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed (partially redacted) via FOIA on 7/22/10]link
[further details revealed via subsequent FOIA on 10/1/11]link

4/5/08: Fossier email to Marable: slanders Lewis again
LR specialist Dick Fossier sent LR specialist Ros Marable a 1:07pm email. He was apparently ‘handing off’ the Lewis case he had worked on for more than a year. In his email, Mr. Fossier referred to Lewis as a ‘slimeball’ who had been with FAA for twenty years, but had never certified. He again slandered Lewis when he wrote that Lewis had been placed into AWOL status. Both of these statements were provable slanders, using FAA records. He then told Ms. Marable that Lewis’ District Manager, Andy Richards, wanted to issue a disciplinary letter and assign Lewis to a new tower … fourteen months after Lewis had been locked out. Based on this, Marable checked out the ROI and began drafting a letter proposing a 14-day suspension for Lewis.
FOR THE RECORD … Lewis was fully certified at four towers in three states, from 1987 until 2000. After promoting to Oakland Center in 2000, Lewis  served for many years, fully-certified to work trans-Pacific oceanic air traffic, including hundreds of overnight and overtime shifts. Lewis chose to relocate to Concord in late 2006, out of concern for fatigue from those overnight shifts. In his four months at Concord, he quickly certified on all positions up to the final, Local Control position, using only 20% of his allotted training time. He was locked out before his Local Control training had begun. Also, in his entire 22-year ATC career, Lewis was never AWOL.
[concealed from foia in 2008, 2009 & 2010];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed (partially redacted) via FOIA on 11/5/11]link
[less-redacted version revealed via FOIA Appeal received on 2/4/12]link
[further details revealed June 2012 via FOIA lawsuit]link

4/17/08: LR specialist drafts 14-day suspension
Labor Relations specialist Ros Marable checked out the ROI, reviewed it, and began drafting a letter proposing to suspend Lewis for 14-days. At the time, the ROI was 13-months-old, and Lewis had already been admonished in July 2007. On this same day, Lewis’ District Manager, Andy Richards at SFO, sent Lewis a certified letter saying …a return to work plan will be discussed with you at a later date…,” and inviting Lewis to call his office phone number if he had any questions.
[concealed from foia in 2008, 2009 & 2010];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed via FOIA on 4/25/11]link

5/15/08: Retaliation for filing a $40K grievance…
LR specialist Glen Rotella had contacted Lewis in early April with a reasonable offer,link hoping to settle the ULP Lewis had filed in November 2007.link To close the deal, Lewis sent a letter to Rotella,link withdrawing his ULP, and also (with clear approval from Mr. Rotella) filing a new grievance to be made whole for the nearly $40K in pay Lewis had lost after being locked out in February 2007. In addition to the monetary reimbursement, the requested grievance remedy included two parts: 1) FAA production of records/information to explain how the lockout came to be; and, 2) “…fully close this matter, as Congress and the general public would expect, by establishing a timeline to put me back to work….” After receiving this letter, Rotella made PDF copies of the new grievance and signed settlement, then shared them with the other officials via a 5/7/08 email.link One week later, LR specialist Ros Marable emailed District Manager Andy Richards, and advised she had started drafting a removal letter.link
FOR THE RECORD … The sole basis for this removal, which became effective on 11/6/08, was contained within an ROI completed on 3/28/07, nearly fourteen-months prior to the drafting of the removal proposal letter. Lewis had already been admonished in July 2007. This was clearly a retaliatory effort, to force Lewis to later accept a retirement in a ‘settlement’.
[concealed from foia in 2008 & 2009];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed via FOIA on 9/27/10]

6/30/08: Lewis was slandered as ‘AWOL’ for eight months
Monique France, the Executive Staff Advisor in the service area offices in Renton, WA, emailed a concurrence to the removal proposal draft sent by LR specialist Ros Marable on 6/24/08.link France and her boss, Kathryn Vernon, were the final accountable authorities for deciding serious actions such as firing personnel. France was a key recipient of the biweekly Terminal Reports, produced by the LR office (AWP-16) for the purpose of coordinating efforts with the service area. For eight straight months, beginning in October 2007, these reports had slandered Lewis as ‘AWOL, pending medical revocation’.
FOR THE RECORD … Lewis was never AWOL in his 22-year FAA career. Also, the record showing concealment of this information is extraordinary, both for the FAA failures to produce in earlier in 2008, 2009, and 2010, but also for the many continued concealments in late 2010, 2011, and 2012. . FOIA responses indicate FAA’s ANM Regional Administrator Kathryn Vernon twice signed off on the redaction of records clearly related to Lewis; first, with the 11/23/09 response to F10-0211WS, and again with the 9/22/10 response to F10-7128WS (though this was signed for Vernon by David Suomi).
[concealed from foia in 2008, 2009 & 2010];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[info revealed via analysis of FOIA records; new FOIA sent 12/14/10]link
[initial info confirmed via FOIA on 1/28/11]link
[more details revealed via FOIA-Remand on 8/22/11]link
[final details revealed via FOIA ‘corrected copy’ on 8/6/12]link

10/6/08: see the Douglas Factors analysis…
… by the deciding official, acting District Manager Mark DePlasco. He emailed Ros Marable that a firing was necessary because “…Mr. Lewis was asked to consider a medical retirement but he refused.”
FOR THE RECORD … had this case been appropriately handled, a Douglas Factors analysis would have been drafted by Dennis Sullivan, way back in April 2007. Instead, there was a full year of delay, and the removal proposal was not initiated until May 2008, immediately after Lewis filed a grievance worth $40K in restored pay. The removal proposal letter was started by LR specialist Marable, even though District Manager Andy Richards had not yet drafted a Douglas Factors analysis. In fact, Andy Richards never did draft a Douglas Factors analysis. That was eventually done by acting District Manager Mark DePlasco, to clean things up (and, after the removal had already been drafted!). Deplasco’s unsigned Douglas Factors analysis did NOT mention any of the alternative sanctions (written admonishment, reassignment, or 14-day suspension). Mr. DePlasco had not become acting District Manager until September 2008, 19-months after Lewis had been locked out, so perhaps Mr. DePlasco knew nothing about this history. Mr. DePlasco’s Douglas Factors analysis draft declared that Lewis had to be fired (due to his refusal to retire on disability), but DePlasco failed to note: Lewis was not eligible for disability, as he had been fully medically restored by Dr. Goodman on 1/10/08. (…also for the record, Lewis’ medical clearance was never properly withdrawn in the first place; Dr. Goodman agreed to revoke the clearance based on NO medical evidence, and based solely on allegations by Jason Ralph.)
[concealed from foia in 2009 & 2010];
[concealed from mspb discovery in early 2009];
[revealed via FOIA on 1/15/11]link

2/24/09: FAA Counsel repeatedly slanders Lewis
In her emails to FAA officials, summarizing her involvement at two MSPB pre-Hearing conferences, AWP Counselor Naomi Tsuda noted she had expressed “significant security concerns” and requested “armed guards” and “metal detectors”.
FOR THE RECORD … Lewis turned age-50 just two months after the MSPB hearing date (though no hearing was ever held) and, to this day, he still has no police record. There are no medical records supporting these slanders, either. In fact, during the months when Lewis was first locked out, in early 2007, he was completing a 50-hour class and earning accreditation as a Stephen Minister.
[revealed via FOIA on 1/15/11]link

<> <<>> <>

FAA’s Next Move…

…if this FAA really cares to have a ‘Just Culture’, they will clean this up. The FAA Administrator needs to request a full investigation by the DoT Inspector General. The list of interviewees needs to include:
  • Don Bobertz (AWP-7)
  • Teri Bristol (WSA, Acting Terminal Ops Director; now ATO-1)
  • David Caldwell (NATCA, SFO FACREP)
  • Dan Castrellon (AWP-16)
  • Barry Davis (WSA-Ops Sr. Advisor; now SCT ATM)
  • Mark DePlasco (Acting Golden Gate District Mgr.; now at FAA HQ)
  • Tony DiBernardo (former AWP-540, removal decision consultant)
  • Frank Ferrera (Golden Gate District; now at SBA)
  • Monique France (WSA-Ops Staff Manager)
  • Hamid Ghaffari (NATCA, AWP RVP)
  • Dr. Stephen Goodman (AWP Regional Flight Surgeon)
  • Patricia Hardy (CCR FLM)
  • Aletha Hicks-Moffatt (AWP-16; now AWP-16 Manager)
  • Cindy Lopez-Hickson (AWP EAP Manager)
  • Tim Kubik (AWP-16 Manager; now AWP HR Director)
  • Clemortee ‘Ros’ Marable (AWP-16)
  • Gwen Marshall (AWP-16)
  • Jason Ralph (CCR ATM; now GG-District Staff Mgr.)
  • Andy Richards (Golden Gate District Manager)
  • Andrew Robinson (Accountability Board)
  • Dennis Sullivan (Golden Gate Dist. Mgr.; now at ZOA)
  • James Swanson (CCR ATCS; now an FLM at APC)
  • Naomi Tsuda (AWP-7)
  • Kathryn Vernon (WSA-Ops; now ANM-1)
…and the following retired FAA employees:

Dick Fossier (AWP-16), Mike Hull (NATCA) and Glen Rotella (AWP-16).