The Office of Special Counsel has said that in fiscal 2018 it again both received and processed about 6,000 cases, many of them involving whistleblower disclosures and retaliation complaints in which it achieved positive results.
“OSC is performing at unprecedented levels in carrying out its role as an independent investigative and enforcement agency, bringing greater integrity and efficiency to the federal government,” Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said in a statement. “OSC is working harder and smarter, with better results than at any time in its history.”
Among notable whistleblower disclosures that were substantiated were a Navy employee’s disclosure that $32 million in equipment was unaccounted for due to lax accountability measures and an EPA employee’s disclosure that a regional office had failed to conduct proper lead-based paint inspections as required by law, it said.
The OSC said that during the year it nearly tripled its average rate in achieving favorable actions in cases alleging whistleblower retaliation and other prohibited personnel practices, with 314 cases including corrective action for complainants as well as disciplinary action against agency officials found to have engaged in misconduct. Among those was a settlement of a complaint by three TSA supervisors who alleged they were involuntarily geographically reassigned after making disclosures related to airport operations and safety, resulting in what it called “unprecedented compensatory damages” of approximately $1 million.
OSC also said that it: conducted nearly 200 training events on civil service law; certified an additional 23 agencies under its program requiring agencies to take specific steps to inform their managers and employees about whistleblower protections and prohibited personnel practices; issued more than 1,300 advisory opinions on the Hatch Act, nearly 50 warning letters, and obtained corrective or disciplinary action in 18 cases; and achieved favorable outcomes in three cases under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act in which veterans received back pay, retroactive promotions and restored leave after agencies failed in their obligations to reemploy them on return from military duty.
The OSC made headlines recently for issuing controversial guidance saying that while generalized praise or criticisms the Trump Administration’s policies and actions are not necessarily banned political activities under the Hatch Act, that advocating for or against impeachment of a partisan candidates for office is prohibited, as is activity related to “resistance” in circumstances where the Hatch Act applies – and that includes social media hash tags such as #resist and #resistance.