The federal Bureau of Prisons’ culture of retaliation against whistleblowers appears to be alive and well, at least in the case of Linda Thomas, a BOP employee who was punished for revealing the unearned compensation of her superior. When Thomas reported that malfeasance to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, she was assigned to work in a converted jail cell without a computer, desk or other equipment needed to do her job. Then the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) stepped in.
The OSC, an independent agency, conducted an investigation into the alleged retaliatory actions by federal prison officials and finally obtained relief for Thomas in early 2015.
A November 2010 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report had cited repeated cases where the Bureau of Prisons retaliated against its own employees who revealed misconduct within the agency. The BOP, secretive in its dealings not only with the public but also members of Congress, is notoriously publicity shy. Woe to any BOP employee who draws attention to wrongdoing, even if it involves misuse of authority or clearly illicit conduct.
U.S. Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley lashed out at BOP Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr. in a sharply-worded letter, stating he was incredulous that Thomas’ superior had received $150,000 in unearned compensation – and that in retaliation for reporting that fact, Thomas had been assigned to a clearly inappropriate work space with no computer and isolated from her co-workers.
Thomas’ superior had taken a voluntary demotion yet continued to receive compensation at a level far above the salary associated with the lower-ranked position.
Due to intervention by the OSC, the retaliatory actions against Thomas were reversed. “[O]ne day before she was scheduled to change offices, [the] BOP agreed to OSC’s request not to move Ms. Thomas to the jail cell. Ms. Thomas was allowed to stay in her existing office. In February 2015, during OSC’s investigation, BOP moved [her] to an appropriate work space in a different Justice Department facility that was satisfactory to her. BOP also agreed to include relevant whistleblower topics in its training for new prison wardens,” the OSC stated in a press release.
According to an April 2015 news report, another BOP employee, Julia Landucci, also was subjected to retaliation. After she reported improprieties in a BOP substance abuse program, Landucci was reportedly ordered to move to a smaller office “next to a co-worker against whom she [had] filed complaints”; she was also denied an educational reimbursement and referred for a mental health exam. The OSC intervened in her case too, pending an investigation by federal prison officials.
PLN has reported numerous other examples of retaliation by the BOP against its own employees, dating back to the 1990s.
Sources: www.washingtonpost.com, http://osc.gov, www.federaltimes.com
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