After blowing the whistle on mismanagement at a Phoenix VA hospital in 2010, Paula Pedene was reassigned to be a receptionist at a desk in the basement library. A 20-year employee, she had previously been the hospital’s chief spokesperson.
GAP has often seen federal and corporate whistleblowers suffer from this type of retaliation, which is aimed at isolating and demoralizing those who speak up. The front-page piece touches on the experience of Hanford whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis, who appears on GAP’sAmerican Whistleblower Tour, and quotes GAP Legal Director Tom Devine.
Key Quote: “I was down there in that office for 16 months. Nothing. They gave me no meaningful work,” said Walter Tamosaitis, a former contract worker at an Energy Department installation in Washington state.
Four years ago, he raised concerns about the processing of radioactive waste. Then he was transferred to a windowless room in the building’s basement.
“It was so lonely,” he said. One day, there was a big snowstorm outside. In the basement, the phone rang. It was his wife, who’d seen a TV report that his workplace had been shut down. He went upstairs: lights out. Doors locked. Nobody told him.
“I thought the Rapture had occurred,” Tamosaitis said. “And I said, ‘Well, [expletive]. I’m the good guy, it can’t be the Rapture. I should be gone, and they should be here.’ ”
“There’s a long, rich tradition of exiling whistleblowers to dusty, dark closets, or hallways, or public spaces,” said Tom Devine, of the watchdog group Government Accountability Project.
He said that, in many cases, the new, bad office is close enough to the old, good office that the person’s colleagues see what’s become of them. “The bureaucratic equivalent of putting a whistleblower in the stocks,” Devine said.
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack recently appeared on FireDogLake‘s podcast, where she spoke about Edward Snowden’s case, Chelsea Manning’s one-year anniversary of her conviction, and the government’s continued efforts to control citizen information. To listen to the discussion in its entirety, click here.
Last week, a House of Representatives hearing looked at the False Claims Act, a law that allows whistleblowers to sue – on behalf of the government – companies that are committing fraud against the government. There is a new movement afoot for amending the law so that whistleblowers must first use “internal corporate compliance procedures before filing suit,” which is an absolutely horrible idea that allows for guilty corporations to frame their compliance issues (and the whistleblower) however they want.
Senate whistleblower champion Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) challenged testimony by a corporate spokesperson that requires such internal reporting.
Key Quote: “I’m always wary when I hear the biggest violators of a law hire people to talk about ‘strengthening’ it,” Grassley said. “The fact is that no other law in existence has been more effective in battling fraud than the False Claims Act has in the past 25 years.” If FCA recoveries haven’t stopped fraud, that’s not the fault of the law, Grassley added; it’s the fault of dishonest companies and reckless government spending.
The Chamber’s proposals “contradict the assertion that the False Claims Act has failed by not recovering enough money,” Grassley continued. The Chamber “makes multiple proposals to limit government recoveries across the board. These limitations would apply regardless of whether the corporation involved participated in any compliance-certification program. That just makes no sense.”
Michael Riley is a Communications Intern for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.