Whistleblower retaliation suit by vet proceeds

This article excerpt features Government Accountability Project’s whistleblower client, Dr. Karen Iovino, and was originally published here.

“A whistleblower’s retaliatory termination suit against her former employer has survived dismissal, but the judge limited her allegations to those presented in her complaint to the Office of the Inspector General, or OIG.

The veterinarian plaintiff alleged that her government contractor employer terminated her in retaliation for her formal complaint that the company mistreated dogs, defrauded the government, and abused its hiring and firing powers.

The employer sought to strike the plaintiff’s allegations, arguing that she had not exhausted her administrative remedies.

But Judge Thomas J. Cullen of the Western District of Virginia concluded that all the plaintiff’s ‘present complaint does is support the broad allegations in her Agency Filing and OIG Complaint with specific examples of the general types of misconduct alleged’.

Michael Stapleton Associates, or MSA, is a security company under contract with the Department of State to train explosive detection dogs for anti-terror programs run by foreign countries and the U.S. abroad. MSA trains and cares for the dogs at a center in Winchester, Virginia.

Dr. Karen Iovino, a licensed veterinarian, was hired in October 2015 by MSA on a part-time basis as ‘Veterinarian in Charge’ to help the onsite veterinary hospital get its operating license. Iovino reported to program manager Zan.

Iovino and Roberts shared concerns about the care the dogs received abroad, and Roberts repeatedly expressed those concerns to his supervisors. MSA eventually replaced Roberts with Michael Ratcliff during Iovino’s tenure.

According to the record, MSA considered Iovino to be a model employee and in February 2017 asked her to become a full-time employee once her part-time contract expired that fall. After reaching agreement on the terms, Iovino alleged that Ratcliff told her that everyone at the center ‘loved working with her.'”