OIG Finds That Top Department of Interior Official Retaliated Against Whistleblower

Department of Interior Official Retaliated Against Whistleblower

In a report published on October 29, the U.S. Department of the Interior 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.

Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, federal employees are protected from retaliation if they engage in protected whistleblower activities, such as filing an internal complaint about a superior. Each federal agency has an OIG, which acts as an internal watchdog for the agency. The Department of Interior OIG conducted an investigation following the whistleblower’s retaliation complaint and subsequently submitted their report to the Secretary of the Interior, “for any action deemed appropriate.”

The OIG found that the whistleblower could establish “a prima facie case of reprisal by a preponderance of the evidence,” and that Reilly could not establish that he would have taken the same action even if a protected whistleblower activity had not occurred.

The OIG also found that Reilly knew of the whistleblower’s complaint and reassigned the whistleblower within a year of discovering the complaint. The report mentions witness accounts stating Reilly had expressed displeasure with the whistleblower who made the complaint.

According to the report, “one witness described a meeting in which Reilly said that the complainant had ‘weaponized the IG process’ against him, and the witness’ contemporaneous notes corroborate that statement. This witness also recalled Reilly asking whether certain actions could be taken against the complainant, such as giving the complainant assignments or deadlines that could not be met so the complainant could be fired, or transferring the complainant to an office that was farther away.”

Following the release of the report, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney , the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, called for the removal of Reilly as the USGS Director in a joint statement.

“Whistleblower retaliation does not get more clear cut than this,” the representatives’ statement reads. “Director Reilly made it a practice to seek out whistleblowers and target them for transfer. Anyone who uses official power to retaliate against whistleblowers—who help uncover waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement—is not fit to hold government office. The Administration must immediately remove Director Reilly. Integrity and accountability matter.”


The OIG Report

The Representatives’ Statement

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