On March 1, the U.S. Senate confirmed Raymond Limon and Tristan Leavitt to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which oversees all federal employee whistleblower retaliation cases. Prior to their confirmation, the Board had been without a quorum, or the number of Board members necessary to function, since January 8, 2017.
The lack of a quorum has been catastrophic for federal employee whistleblowers, whose cases have stalled at the nonfunctioning Board. Because of its lack of quorum, the MSPB has been unable to issue a final ruling on a whistleblower retaliation case for over five years. This has led to an immense backlog of over 3500 cases, at least 750 of which are whistleblower retaliation cases, a Freedom of Information Act request by WNN revealed in January of 2021.
The Senate’s March 1 votes were confirmed by voice. Tristan Leavitt, who was nominated to serve as a Board member on September 2, 2021, will serve on the MSPB for a term of seven years until March 1, 2023. Raymond Limon will serve as a Board member for a seven-year term, to expire on March 1, 2025.
Both Leavitt and Limon’s nominations were widely supported by whistleblower advocates. On February 15, a collection of close to one hundred civil society organizations, including WNN, sent a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging the Senate leaders to allow the full Senate to vote on the nominees.
Concerns remain about how the MSPB will work through the massive backlog that has accumulated in the five years since it last had a quorum. Mark Robbins, the most recent member of the MSPB whose term expired in March 2019, said in a recent interview that the backlog “would take about five years to process, just given the amount of staff and the time that the three new members are going to need to read through these files.”
Robbins also warned: “[F]ive years is a vacuum because there are new cases coming in and the new board will have to prioritize the import of new cases with those that have been in existence for up to five years.”
Stephen M. Kohn, a whistleblower attorney at Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, praised the Senate’s decision to confirm the nominees. “Thank goodness! This comes way too late for the thousands of federal employees whose cases were on hold. This delay demonstrates the need for federal employee whistleblowers to have direct federal court access,” Kohn told WNN. “Hopefully the new board members will act promptly to address whistleblowers’ rights in accordance with the law.”