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OSC probes support 2 whistle-blowers at Hill

Dec. 19, 2012 - 02:53PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 19, 2012 - 02:53PM  |  
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The federal agency that earlier this year found Air Force officials had retaliated against workers who reported the mishandling of the country's war dead said it has recently settled two more cases of reprisals in the service.

In separate incidents, a human resources systems manager and electronics maintenance technician at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, spoke up about what they perceived as wrongdoing, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a Dec. 18 news release.

According to OSC summaries:

• The human resources systems manager reported to a supervisor in 2010 that a co-worker had altered a military ID card. He later filed an Inspector General complaint because he thought the supervisor had failed to act. The systems manager, who was still in his probationary period at the time, was then fired for poor performance.

• The electronics maintenance technician said in a town hall meeting that his department did not have the proper tools and that his co-workers were not properly repairing aircraft. Three months later, he received markdowns on his performance review and was passed over for a cash reward. The technician had received performance reviews and cash rewards the previous eight years.

The Air Force settled both of the cases in November, OSC said. The systems manager was reinstated and given back pay. The service also restored his leave and benefits. The maintenance technician received a perfect performance review and the cash award for the 2010-2011 performance year.

OSC spokeswoman Ann O'Hanlon said privacy laws prevent the release of the names of those who retaliated against the workers. One is a civilian and one is a service member, she said, declining to specify which cases either was a part of.

In January, OSC, which investigates accusations of whistle-blower reprisals, http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/01/air-force-whistleblower-law-violated-in-dover-case-013112/">announced that three officials at Dover Air Force Base, Del., had retaliated against four Port Mortuary workers when they complained inside and outside their chain of command about lost, misplaced and mishandled remains of fallen service members between 2009 and 2010. The service has since resolved the cases.

Also this year, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Air Force had a disproportionate number of whistle-blower complaints. While the service represents 22 percent of the military population, it accounted for 37 percent of the complaints.

The Air Force was also more likely to fully investigate and substantiate whistleblower claims, the GAO said.

The Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988 is supposed to protect from retaliation service members who report waste, fraud and abuse to an inspector general, a member of Congress, a law enforcement agency or certain Defense Department officials. Reprisals generally took the form of unfavorable assignments or reassignment, poor performance evaluations or disciplinary action, GAO found.

OSC usually does not publicly release its reports, O'Hanlon said, although an exception was made in the Dover case.

Air Force Times has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the Hill cases. No other information was immediately available, O'Hanlon said.

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