The New York Times headline inspired retired Environmental Protection Agency staffer William Sanjour to write to the editor.
The headline read: “Whistle-Blower Did the Unexpected: She Returned to Work”
“Why are you surprised that a whistle-blower went back to work?” he wrote in a letter posted Wednesday. “I was a whistle-blower at the Environmental Protection Agency and went back to work for 20 years and continued to blow the whistle, as did several of my whistle-blowing colleagues. That’s the law.”
The law he refers to is the Whistleblower Protection Act and Sanjour relied on it as a long-time critic of his own agency.
The Times story he refers to was about Tricia Newbold, a White House security office staffer. This weekend, she told Congressional investigators that senior White House officials overruled security staff and granted clearances to 25 employees.
Sanjour, a member of the National Whistleblower Center, did battle with the EPA for decades over hazardous waste management policies. He accused the EPA of weakening some regulations and failing to update others. He criticized the agency’s enforcement efforts to the press, to Congress and at political rallies. Since then, he’s become an advocate for whistleblowers.
Sanjour closed his letter by noting that the law requires civil servants to report fraud.
“Therefore, it is Ms. Newbold’s superiors who should not be returning to work,” he wrote.
The original New York Times story includes a comment Newbold offered on her way to work Tuesday. From the Times:
“As you can imagine,” Ms. Newbold, a 39-year-old employee of the White House Personnel Security Office, wrote in an email during her commute on Monday, “I am extremely nervous for how people at work will treat me.”
But according to people close to her, she was not afraid to tell them about the things she had seen…In a White House where aggressive leak investigations are conducted in service of President Trump, who has aides sign nondisclosure agreements, Ms. Newbold’s account represents the rarest of developments: a damning on-the-record account from a current employee inside his ranks.
Whistleblowers often have the option to report their complaints anonymously. There were off the record accounts of activity at the security office as well, according to a memo on the meeting with Newbold that was prepared by staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“Committee staff have spoken with other whistleblowers who corroborated Ms. Newbold’s account, but they were too afraid about the risk to their careers to come forward publicly.”
The comment section on the Times story – cut off at 623– includes readers condemning Newbold as a disgruntled employee who should be fired. She “clearly believes herself to be a martyr and can’t take supervisory oversight,” writes a reader identified as Ace from New Jersey. Others praise her integrity and describe her as a “patriotic American.”
Commenter Catherine Nellis of Barrington Rhode Island writes that she is “moved to tears by Ms. Newbold’s bravery – not only for coming forward with this outrageous pattern of behavior but also for having the fortitude to return to her job.”