A former official who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sued the agency and the Department of Energy (DOE) alleging whistleblower retaliation, according to an October 21 article from E&E News.
Kevin Chmielewski filed the lawsuit on October 20 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit alleges “EPA violated his free speech and due process rights by removing him from the agency while DOE did the same by refusing to hire him,” according to the article. The lawsuit also names EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette as defendants.
Chmielewski confirmed to E&E News that he filed the lawsuit but refrained from commenting further. James Hewitt, the EPA’s spokesman, told E&E News, “We can’t comment on pending litigation.” The DOE’s press officials did not respond to E&E’s questions about the lawsuit.
Chmielewski worked at the EPA from 2017 to 2018 as a scheduling director and then the deputy chief of staff. While at the EPA, Chmielewski expressed concerns about former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s conduct and “catalogued Pruitt’s heavy use of business and first-class flights, exorbitant spending on security measures, and use of EPA subordinates for personal tasks, like finding him a new apartment,” according to the article.
In 2018, Chmielewski sent lawmakers documents and information about his concerns. In April of that year, a group of House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to Pruitt’s office about the evidence Chmielewski had collected. Subsequently, the EPA’s inspector general conducted an investigation of Pruitt’s travel and security spending, later “issuing reports” and “admonishing the agency,” according to the article.
The lawsuit alleges that Chmielewski “was removed for retaliatory reasons and without due process of law because he engaged in a series of allegations to appropriate officials, human resources staff, agency counsel, and Congressional committees that the Administrator was engaged in a pattern and practice of incurring travel expenses, office improvements, and use of staff for personal tasks in violation of federal statutes, regulations and EPA policies.”
The lawsuit also describes “Chmielewski’s account of how he was forced out” of the EPA, claiming that this process involved being stripped of his access pass and “removed from EPA headquarters in February 2018.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that when Chmielewski applied for a job at the DOE, he “was not hired into the DOE position in retaliation for his protected activity in violation of his speech rights under the First Amendment.”
Chmielewski requested to be reinstated as the deputy chief of staff at the EPA “or the position at DOE.” Chmielewski is also requesting that “records related to his “purported resignation” be expunged from his file and his attorneys’ fees be awarded,” according to the article.