MSPB Orders Army Corps of Engineers to Offer “Sincere Thanks” to Whistleblower

Gavel Symbolizing MSPB Chair

On March 12, a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) administrative judge ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a letter of “sincere thanks” to whistleblower Dr. Tommie (Toni) Savage.

Dr. Savage’s federal employee whistleblower case has stretched on for nearly a decade and a half since she began to experience retaliation for blowing the whistle on systemic contracting fraud within the Army Corps of Engineers. Her case before the MSPB established the right for federal whistleblowers to pursue hostile work environment claims.

“The fact that the government was required to praise a whistleblower in writing is remarkable,” said whistleblower attorney Michael Kohn, who represents Dr. Savage.

Dr. Savage, who is African American, became a whistleblower shortly after being named to head the Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntsville, Alabama contracting office. When she entered her new position, she found rampant government contracting fraud occurring in plain sight. Dr. Savage raised concerns internally to the highest levels of the command, and nothing was done. She then went to the auditing department. All her allegations of contract fraud were confirmed by the auditing department. Subsequently, they were all corroborated by two high-level Army AR15-6 investigations. According to the final AR 15-6 reports. The reports blamed the failure to rectify Dr. Savage’s concerns on the commander and the region’s chief counsel. The reports indicate Dr. Savage deserves to be commended for exposing the wrongful conduct.

Dr. Savage alleged that her whistleblowing caused her workplace to turn hostile. She complained of numerous retaliatory actions (demotion, downgraded performance reviews, failure to issue awards, failure to issue interim evaluations, unrealistic deadlines, and refusal to staff her office, resulting in an overwhelming and unmanageable workload. She was also subjected to racially insensitive remarks). Eventually, Dr. Savage began to suffer debilitating panic attacks when she entered the workplace. She was charged with AWOL (absent without official leave) and permanently removed from federal service when she could no longer return to her work environment.

Dr. Savage filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the MSPB. After years of litigation, a landmark decision emerged when the Board adopted Dr. Savage’s argument that the protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act extend to hostile work environment claims. Federal whistleblowers can now raise a hostile work environment claim in defense of a removal action.

In 2023, a final settlement in Dr. Savage’s retaliation case was approved by the MSPB. One of the key terms of that settlement required the Army Corps’ commander to issue a letter of “sincere thanks” to the whistleblower. In January, Dr. Savage filed a complaint claiming that the Army had not followed the terms of the settlement. The administrative judge assigned to the case has ordered the Army to issue the letter.

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