(ENS) WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Special Counsel has dismissed or otherwise disposed of more than 1,000 whistleblower cases in the past year, according to a letter from the Bush- appointed Special Counsel released February 23 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national organization representive natural resources government employees.
In a letter dated February 14, 2005 and addressed to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who is the Ranking Member on the House Government Reform Committee, Special Counsel Scott Bloch defends his 13 months in office by pointing to a sharp drop in backlogged whistleblower cases.
Bloch has yet to announce a single case where he has ordered an investigation into the employee's charges. Bloch says that 100 disclosures are still pending.
"I share with you a 100 percent commitment to protecting federal whistleblowers, the merit system principles, and bringing justice to the federal workforce. These ideals can only be served by reducing the historic backlog in this agency that I inherited," writes Bloch.
He calls dismissal of the more than 1,000 whistleblower cases, "a creative and longlasting strategic solution to the problem that will redound to the credit of the federal workforce for years to come."
"Everyone agrees that backlogs and delays are bad but they are not as bad as simply dumping the cases altogether," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
This letter is the first account that Bloch has released of his tenure. Ruch notes that his office's report for FY 2004, which ended in October, is overdue.
"If the Office of Special Counsel under Scott Bloch is not helping whistleblowers then there is no reason for the office to continue to exist," Ruch said.
Bloch wrote to Waxman that in the past year the Office of Special Counsel has made 470 claims of retaliation disappear. In none of these cases did Bloch's office affirmatively represent a whistleblower to obtain relief before the civil service court system, called the Merit Systems Protection Board. Bloch says that another 30 retaliation cases remain in the backlog.
In order to speed dismissals, Bloch instituted a rule forbidding his staff from contacting a whistleblower if their disclosure was deemed incomplete or ambiguous. Instead, Office of the Special Counsel simply dismissed the matter. As a result, says Ruch, hundreds of whistleblowers never had a chance to justify why their cases had merit.
"According to Scott Bloch there is no waste, fraud or abuse in the federal government that deserves investigation," said Ruch, noting that there may be even more dismissals than Bloch reported because the numbers cited above are limited to what was defined as a backlog and do not include new cases.
Congressmen Waxman and Danny Davis, an Illinois Democrat, also on the House Government Reform Committee and its Civil Service Subcommittee had originally written to ask for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office into Bloch's removal of staff in his office, hiring of cronies, and failure to answer Freedom of Information Act requests. In his letter to Waxman, Bloch defends all of his actions in detail.
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