WASHINGTON – The Government Accountability Project today expressed appreciation for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) decision to enjoin and reverse the termination of Jeffrey Missal, a Department of Interior (DOI) Regional Environmental Officer for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). In 2015, BSEE terminated Mr. Missal on the basis of a retaliatory investigation opened just hours after he disclosed evidence that the agency was violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by seeking to approve Artic oil exploration and drilling without first conducting legally-required environmental reviews.

In October 2017, following an extensive year-long investigation, the OSC completed an exhaustive Prohibited Personal Practices report which concluded that Mr. Missal’s termination was illegal and recommended that the DOI reverse it. On August 2, 2017, Mr. Missal’s termination was “stayed,” or halted, due to an OSC petition with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which adjudicates Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) cases. This reprieve kept Mr. Missal from losing his home. The Special Counsel since has obtained eight additional stays, all from the MSPB. During this time, the OSC also sponsored prolonged but unsuccessful attempts to resolve the case through informal settlement negotiations and through its Alternative Dispute Resolution unit. Interior declined informal and formal settlement offers and rejected the OSC’s recommendations for corrective action, triggering last week’s complaint and indefinite stay request to the MSPB.

Should Special Counsel Henry Kerner’s complaint not be dismissed or resolved, it will mark the Special Counsel’s first MSPB hearing to challenge WPA retaliation since 1979. Legal Director for the Government Accountability Project and Mr. Missal’s counsel, Tom Devine, expressed appreciation:

The Interior Department has not respected the Whistleblower Protection Act’s enforcement institutions. Even after putting Mr. Missal back on payroll, it has continued to violate many of the details of MSPB stay orders by continuing to isolate him and intentionally restricting his normal duties. Since the Interior summarily rejected the OSC’s recommendations after a thorough investigation, it is almost as if the agency was testing the OSC’s will, and authority Special Counsel Kerner did not blink. It helps all whistleblowers, regardless of the nature of their disclosure, when the OSC holds agencies accountable for taking its conclusions seriously.

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 202-457-0034 ext. 156

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.