The Office of Special Counsel has named three TSA employees as winners of its Public Servants of the Year award for blowing the whistle on “systemic deficiencies and lax airport security protocols that were largely dismissed by TSA leadership.”
F. Michael Abreu, Heather Callahan Chuck, Sharlene Mata each served as deputy federal security directors for the TSA in Hawaii. After Mata and Chuck made their disclosures in 2014, the OSC said, the agency “wrongly blamed” them for poor leadership and when Abreu “refused to give untrue information about his colleagues, TSA unfairly concluded that he was aligned with them.” All three were then “punitively reassigned” to distant facilities–Mata to Seattle, Callahan Chuck to Los Angeles and Abreu to Burbank–it said.
The OSC earlier this year obtained settlements including about $1 million in compensatory damages to the three and the return of Abreu and Mata to Hawaii to comparable assignments; Callahan Chuck had resigned in the meantime.
“These three individuals, at tremendous personal risk, blew the whistle at TSA, knowingly placing their careers on the line by directly challenging agency leadership,” Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said in the announcement. “They have demonstrated strong integrity as public servants. And their persistent assertion of whistleblower protections serves as a model for all other federal employees.”
TSA ended its practice of directed reassignments in 2016, the announcement added.