The cost of being good and having a conscience?
The below, posted [here] April 5, 2008, on OpEd News
The Congress held hearings this week calling FAA whistle Blowers to testify. It is likely these guys life as a federal civil servant is over. They have dedicated their lives to protecting you. Now they have done the ultimate sacrifice. They have in a sense laid down there life on a grenade to protect the public they served. There will be no medal awarded here, and no recognition by anyone else for their heroic duty.
My hat is off to them.
Jon Hilkevitch - CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported
“One whistle-blower, FAA inspector Douglas Peters, choked up with emotion while describing his conversation with an FAA manager last June about Peters’ concerns over “unethical actions” by FAA personnel in the failure to inspect 47 Southwest Airlines planes. The manager agreed to look into issues that Peters raised in a memo. But walking over to a bookshelf in Peters’ office where he keeps family photos, the manager picked up a picture of Peters’ son standing near a plane and said, “This is what’s important, family and flying.” On his way out the door, the manager added: “You have a good job here, and your wife has a good job [at an FAA facility in Dallas]. I’d hate to see you jeopardize yours and her careers trying to take down a couple of losers.” “
What the FAA manager said was not untrue. I too was a whistle blower and it is why I do not work for the FAA anymore. I still think about my time there as a pilot and systems engineer was well spent as a public servant. But the results of Blowing the Whistle were devastating to mylife, career and ultimately sent me to federal prison.
I recognize now that the U.S. government’s executive branch is broken beyond repair, because of the structure of temporary political appointees, typically figureheads that don’t know anything about the agency they are put in charge of, over life long civil servants that have made the specific agency their life long commitment. Sadly, it makes no difference if it is a Republican or Democrat, so not even an election can cure the problem.
It is not wise as a government employee to bring up a problems or “Blow the Whistle” under this type of structured government. No politician over an agency wants to look like he/she is incompetent at his/her job. It looks bad all the way up to the president. Just look at Browne with FEMA and the effect it had on Bush.
If a problem is bad enough for a public Whistle Blowing, it is going to make the political appointee over that agency look bad. His/her agency is out of his control. This will in turn make the president look bad for selecting someone incompetent and unable to control the conduct of the agency. Presidents and their personal wrecking crews do have control many other executive agencies’ including the IRS, the U.S. Attorney, etc… that can and will do everything in their power to make the whistle blowers life a complete living hell if they have disgraced the executive branch.
When a Whistle Blower case does go to the federal courts for resolution the Congress steps aside and will no longer assist the whistle blower. The Congress will cite, as they did to me in my case, the separations of power, leaving the Whistle Blower at the mercy of the federal courts stacked with more presidential appointees to judge the case. Talk about a stacked deck.
Government agencies are represented by the United States Attorney’s office in federal court. The first tactic is to discredit the Whistle Blower as a disgruntled employee. Attempts are then made to minimize the problem reported.
In my case one of the problems I reported was a safety system that was required to be monitored, I reported it as not being monitored. The FAA said 15% of the system was being monitored and I was therefore not correct in reporting the system was not being monitored because 15% was being monitored. Yes, your government does make bizarre claims like this.
Attacks are then directed as to job performance, questions as to mental stability, or anything else in their play book. In my case I had just been recommended for a national “against all odds” award for my work performance, so that tactic did not work.
If these tactics don’t work, as in my case where the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia openly stated this to me, they will starve the Whistle Blower out by extending the case for so long the legal bills will drive them under. In my case, I did go bankrupt and was forced to move in with my parents. But I still fought on.
If that doesn’t work they begin to search out anything that can be used against you including an audit with the IRS. If that doesn’t work threaten some type of criminal charge. I’ve seen it all.
Settle your case or else. I have an Assistant United States Attorney on tape telling me to settle my case or they were going to indict me for failure to pay child support amount based on my former position with the FAA. When I still refused to settle and my family paid the past due support I was indicted for failure to pay child support anyway and sent to federal prison for 16 months.
Unable to continue my Whistle Blower case, it was dropped by the court. I did not get anything for my wrongful dismissal.
During the criminal trial, the government was permitted to enter into evidence that, by my refusing a settlement that would have been enough to pay the child support; I was guilty of willful failure to pay my child support. They even claimed I would not settle, because I would have to pay child support. Oddly the AUSA in the FAA case, argued the opposit, that I had brought up the need to pay my child support and not them.
I was not permitted by the court to tell the jury that the child support was paid by my family. And I was not permitted to discuss why I no longer was working for the FAA.
Seem kind of odd, not if you understand the politics of even the judicial branch of the government. U.S. District judges are appointed by the president usually because of party favors. These judges are also looking for promotions to the U.S Court of Appeals or even Supreme Court appointments. Not even God can help you if you get a judge that was appointed by the party you just embarrassed.
In my case I had Judge William J Zloch, the chief judge for the Southern District of Florida appointed by a Republican. It was my bad luck that a Republican, Bush, was new to office and Zloch was looking for a promotion.
Having Judge Zloch was no coincidence, because he also was the presiding judge over the Value Jet case. As Chief Judge for the district he gets to assign the cases. I was also the Whistle Blower in that case that reported the wiring problems with the aircraft used on flight 592 one week prior to the crash. Judge Zloch had just sent two people to prison ruling the accident was the oxygen canisters they had put on the aircraft and not the wiring problem as I had reported.
My case is under its final appeal in the Eleventh Circuit and I will likely lose, because of the actions of my court appointed lawyer during the trial.
To date, I lost well over $1,000,000 in compensations had I been able to stay and retire, and my career in aviation and as a civil servant was completely destroyed. I went to prison and have no decent job prospects with a $30,000 support debt which accrued during my prison term that I must pay or go to prison again.
After all that has happened to me, I can’t say that I have not had second thoughts about whistle blowing. What if I just let the killing continue? It is likely that this will kill me.
I would never advise a government employee to blow the whistle. This is a very personal decision. It is like I said; you are laying your career and your life down on a grenade to protect the lives of people you don’t even know.
The FAA manager was not lying or wrong when he said, “You have a good job here, and your wife has a good job [at an FAA facility in Dallas]. I’d hate to see you jeopardize yours and her careers trying to take down a couple of losers.”
Government Whistle Blowers do risk all for no reward and are soon forgotten.
10 year Navy veteran,
former Federal employee with various agencies