Whistleblower Appeal to Test Obama Policies

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Whistleblower Appeal to Test Obama Policies

Anti-Labor Firm Gobbles Taxpayer Dollars to Fight Border Agency Lawyer

WASHINGTON - A major test of whether the Obama administration will protect
whistleblowers is arising out of an obscure border agency which fired
its General Counsel just three days after he reported waste, fraud and
abuse, according to an appeal filed today with the Merits Systems
Protection Board by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). The agency, the United States Section, International Boundary
and Water Commission (IBWC), based in El Paso, Texas, has hired the
nation's top union-busting law firm to defend its actions, costing
taxpayers approximately $100,000 thus far, at rates ranging up to
$450.00 an hour.

Robert McCarthy, the IBWC General Counsel, had
warned the agency about an array of financial abuses, including a $220
million Recovery Act flood control project which threatened the safety
of millions of border residents. McCarthy also reported improper
expenditures, illegal manipulation of payrolls, secret surveillance of
IBWC employees, and other abuses to the Office of Special Counsel, State
Department Office of Inspector General, Office of White House Counsel
and the Government Accountability Office.

On July 28, 2009,
McCarthy informed Bill Ruth, the holdover IBWC Commissioner appointed by
President Bush, that he had disclosed these concerns to oversight
agencies. Three days later, Ruth ordered McCarthy's termination.
Ruth's removal letter cited McCarthy's repeated warnings, stating the
memos demonstrated McCarthy's "failure to support me...in a constructive
and collegial manner...."

On April 9, 2010, an administrative
judge upheld McCarthy's termination finding that McCarthy's whistle
blowing "coincided, either by chance or by design" but were not the
cause of the removal. On behalf of McCarthy, PEER is asking the
presidentially-appointed Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) to reverse
that ruling, as a matter of law, and restore McCarthy.

"In this
case, Robert McCarthy was told orally and in writing that he was being
fired because he raised legal violations, safety concerns and rampant
misconduct. If he is not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act
that law is a dead letter," stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein,
noting that in addition, several key documents were admitted as
evidence even though computer metadata showed they were backdated and,
therefore, falsified.

For its defense in the whistleblower
case, this summer IBWC retained the high-dollar law firm Jackson Lewis
LLP, which specializes in "union avoidance" or "preventive labor
relations." Documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information
Act reflect nearly $100,000 in billings by the firm, at rates ranging
from $375.00 to $450.00 per hour. There are several tens of thousands
of dollars more in billings that PEER is still seeking. PEER is still
trying to learn whether the IBWC accounts used to pay the firm came from
Recovery Act funds.

"The irony here is that by reporting
waste, fraud and abuse, Robert McCarthy induced his agency to waste even
more taxpayer funds," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
"The larger issue is whether anyone in the Obama administration is
paying attention to what this small but pivotal agency is doing."

 

See the
McCarthy appeal

Look at removal
of whistleblower lawyer for lacking "collegiality"

View
the Jackson Lewis billings

Find out more
about Jackson Lewis

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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