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A reminder of what the Office of Special Counsel is capable of

The following is not intended to reflect or imply anything toward the current Special Counsel, Carolyn Lerner. With that said, here’s how bad it got in the 1980?s. From the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service Report No. 95-859, September 22, 1986:

Page 17: Since the establishment of the OSC, one Special Counsel [now 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski] has taught a course for Federal managers on how to fire whistleblowers. Another has expressed disdain for whistleblowers by referring to them as “malcontents” and “informants” and likening them to bag ladies and mental health patients. One Special Counsel [K. William O’Connor] even warned would-be whistleblowers to keep quiet or they would get their heads blown off.[*]

Pages 18-19: Testimony before the Subcommittee on Civil Service showed that the Special Counsel closes one-third to one-half of all its cases without meeting with the complainant and without conducting any inquiry at all. When the Special Counsel does open an investigation, OSC investigators explicitly discourage employees from presenting evidence and often refuse to contact witnesses suggested by them. Recently, the Office’s top priority was to close cases and members of the staff were given quotas on the number of cases they were to close by specified days.

Page 20: Moreover, the Special Counsel has attacked the motives of individuals who have come to him for help. Mr. O’Connor asserted in subcommittee hearings . . . that complainants he turned away hae almost always lost their cases everywhere else as well. Subcommittee investigation showed that Mr. O’Connor’s allegations were unfounded.

Page 22: In the first three years of operation, the Office of Special Counsel ordered agency investigations for nearly one quarter of the complaints received. Since that time, the percentage of disclosures which are referred has dropped to 7.5 percent. . . . Recently, the Special Counsel has been making “informal” referrals. In some cases, these referrals have included cover notes from the Special Counsel criticizing the whistleblowers’ charges as he referred them.

The Whistleblower Protection Act makes the Special Counsel a safe harbor for the disclosure of wrongdoing by ensuring there is a serious investigation when the allegations have merit and by protecting the identity of the employee who made the disclosure in all cases. The “informal” referrals to agencies are eliminated.

Page 25: Finally, both the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board are placed under expiring authorizations for fixed sums of money to provide better congressional oversight.

*This is so despite Mr. O’Connor having said the following, upon taking office, in 1982:

I am on record as saying that if this office cannot be made to work, I will lead the parade to abolish it. I stand by that statement.


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