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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Whistleblowers Want Jail For Top Fraud Inspector Under Bush - "The Fox Murdering the Chickens"



Former Bush Administration head of the Office of the Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, faces sentencing this Friday before a District of Columbia federal judge on one count of withholding information from Congress.  Bloch's duties included the protection of government employee whistleblowers and investigating reports of fraud, waste and other abuses within the federal government.  See this Legal Times blog post
Bloch's tenure was troubled by many accounts and he was accused of ignoring whistleblower complaints, retaliating against whistleblowers, making discriminatory remarks and other actions.  His record may have signified in some corners the Bush Administration's lax enforcement of the law -- or tacit approval of government waste, fraud and other illicit behavior.  Allegations of hostility and retaliation towards whistleblowers, if true, would suggest an effort to "sweep under the rug" certain matters.  In other words, attempts to cover up embarassing events.  Consider this comment from Steven M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center:
  
The person responsible for upholding and enforcing the whistleblower protection laws, the person in charge of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) during the Bush administration, has now pleaded guilty to a serious crime.
 
This is not a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop. This is a case of the fox pleading guilty to murdering the chickens. Scott Bloch's actions have cost taxpayers billions of dollars in the misuse of monies, and have cost countless whistleblowers their reputations and careers.
 
Now, President Obama has a unique opportunity to fix the problem. He has still not appointed a Special Counsel, and the NWC repeats our call for the immediate appointment of an aggressive, competent, independent whistleblower advocate who will have the courage to take on the bureaucracy and demand accountability.  Now is the time for the appointment of someone who will change the culture of the OSC and stand behind the whistleblower.
 
Watching the Special Counsel plead guilty to a serious crime is the lowest point in the history of the rights of federal employee whistleblowers. President Obama has the ability to restore the faith in this office by appointing a true whistleblower advocate. 
The full release from the NWC is available here
One may speculate as to whether the Bush Administration's seeming hostility towards those who tried to investigate, expose and fix waste and fraud in government also extended to the private sector of the economy, and in particular, the financial markets. Whatever is the true story behind Scott Bloch and the Office of Special Counsel under President Bush, the specter of whistleblower retaliation has to have been troubling.  Government fraud and waste have been serious, endemic problems.  Hostility and retaliation towards whistleblowers -- especially if these attitudes were part of an unofficial policy of hostility -- give aid and comfort to those who abuse power and have the ability to execute cover-ups.  Depending on the context in which these actions occur, such cover-ups are not merely wrong or illegal.   If within our federal government, they can be patently dangerous to national security. These calls to make the government safe for whistleblowers are overdue and cannot be acted upon soon enough.
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who handles investigative matters using his background in securities compliance and corporate law.  He can be reached for comment or consultation at 917-696-2442 and 212-386-7632, or at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com. 

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