On January 18, Government Accountability Project (GAP) announced that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) recently paid $100,000 to a whistleblower to settle allegations of retaliation by Trump administration officials.
The whistleblower, who is remaining anonymous, was “among the most outstanding employees in the federal government” and “spearheaded an award-winning program that has revolutionized the fighting of wildfires and other DOI missions,” according to GAP. The whistleblower filed a complaint to Congress detailing gross mismanagement of the program by Trump administration officials. These officials allegedly learned of the whistleblower’s disclosure and began retaliating against them. The retaliation allegedly included the wrongful denial of pay and benefits.
Following the alleged retaliation, the whistleblower filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency tasked with investigating allegations of whistleblower retaliation against federal employees. According to GAP, OSC was “instrumental in bringing DOI to the negotiating table,” which led to the $100,000 settlement.
“This is an outstanding result,” said GAP Counsel David Z. Seide. “Our client was hurt by arbitrary and wrongful retaliatory acts by Trump officials, rightly exercised their federal whistleblower rights and was ultimately vindicated. We thank OSC and its staff for their assistance.”
In July 2021, Special Counsel Henry Kerner was among the numerous government officials who spoke at National Whistleblower Day. Kerner stated that “on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, OSC joins federal agencies and departments in recognition of whistleblowers, and we honor every individual who has bravely shined a light on wrongdoing.”
This is not the only recent case of alleged whistleblower retaliation by DOI officials. In October 2020, the DOI Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Director James Reilly retaliated against a USGS whistleblower. Reilly reassigned the whistleblower after the whistleblower filed a complaint about him. The content of the whistleblower’s original complaint is unknown.