NOTE: Tune into the Federal News Network for a discussion on the importance of whistleblower protection taped on Friday August 23. Host Debra Roth sits down with Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project; John Kostyack, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center; and Liz Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy at the Project on Government Oversight.”
Congressional investigators say they’ve been trying to get some answers about problems at the Coast Guard Academy for more than a year.
Finally, staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Homeland Security met with the Coast Guard Academy Dean Kurt Colella last week. He brought along the assistant academy superintendent, the Coast Guard’s House liaison, the agency’s chief of congressional affairs and the director of personnel readiness, according to committee members.
Apparently, none of them had much to say. Here’s how the meeting was described in a letter from lawmakers to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz.
“Coast Guard officials indicated that pursuant to your orders, all of the Coast Guard personnel who were present at the meeting were directed to refuse to answer any questions regarding any past events at the Academy involving either faculty or cadets, including any questions pertaining to the OIG’s report,” wrote Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) chair of the oversight committee and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) of the homeland security committee.
The investigators have questions about a number of issues, including the Office of the Inspector General report on the case of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear. In December, the Department of Homeland Security IG substantiated that she had been retaliated against at the academy for her whistleblowing activity.
Newsweek offers this review of the other complaints that led to the investigations:
The House’s investigation was sparked by complaints of bullying and harassment of cadets of color at the institution and by the school’s substandard “Equity Scorecard” grades, a study conducted by the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California.
In addition to finding that “black/African American cadets have been consistently less likely to graduate than the all-cadet average,” the scorecard also noted that the group also faced a disproportionately higher volume of disciplinary action.
The letter from the lawmakers includes a run-down of months of back and forth between the agency and the investigators and the charges that the reviews has been “repeatedly delayed by the Coast Guard’s lack of transparency.” As described in the letter, the Coast Guard responded to multiple requests for information with heavily redacted, sometimes redundant documents.
“We are deeply troubled by what appear to be repeated efforts by the Coast Guard to impede our investigation of the handling of allegations of harassment and retaliation at the Coast Guard Academy,” the letter reads.
Not everyone at the Coast Guard has been so tight lipped about the past. In a July story on Young-McLear’s case in the New London Day, Capt. Tony Russell said the Coast Guard “accepts and embraces” the findings in the inspector general report,
He also said they had used it to “remedy any identified wrongs of the past and to make changes for improved performance going forward.”
The Coast Guard Academy is based in New London and The Day story offers a thorough review of Young McLear’s case.
One sign of change, maybe? A news release on Coast Guard participation in the New York City Pride March. Here’s the lead:
Marching, a basic part of the military lifestyle is one of the first commands a Coast Guardsman learns. However this past month, Coast Guardsmen across the nation marched for a different reason, Pride.