It’s not easy being a whistleblower – especially when the head honcho of the federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers is a blockhead.
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His name is – aptly enough – Scott Bloch. He’s another of George W’s political appointees with no particular competence for the job. His previous post was at the justice department’s “task force for faith-based initiatives.” Bloch has been a bumbler – he’s under investigation for sexual bias in the workplace and retaliation against employees who disagree with his policies. He even has a whistleblower complaint against him by his own staff! And, in his first month on the job, he blithely tossed out more than a thousand legitimate whistleblower cases, apparently so he could claim progress in reducing his agency’s backlog.
But Bloch’s most blockheaded move was his treatment of Leroy Smith, who had been named 2006 “Public Servant of the Year.” Smith was being honored for blowing the whistle on federal prison factories that expose inmates and staff to deadly toxics. In September, Smith was flown to Washington for the big ceremony, media were invited, lawmakers were coming, a roomful of catered food was laid out, and the doors to the event were swinging open when – Slam! – Bloch abruptly canceled the event.
He claimed that he had to cancel because another agency official had suffered a “sudden” death in her family. But the death was not sudden. “It’s kind of fishy,” said a disappointed Smith. What really caused this petulant reaction by Bloch, the guy who’s supposed to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers? It seems he learned that Smith was going to a press conference after the ceremony to decry the difficulties of being a federal whistleblower – and that would not be good for Bloch’s image. He later mailed the award to Smith.
This is Jim Hightower saying… To help whistleblowers fight such blockheads, contact the watchdog group, PEER, at 202-265-7337.
“Special Counsel Cancels Award Ceremony for Whistle-Blower,” The Washington Post, September 11, 2006.
PEER Director, Jeff Ruch. Interview, September 26, 2006.
“Bush Appointee Pulls Plug on Whistleblower Fete,” www.tpmmuckraker.com, September 11, 2006.