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USCG & Sexual Harassment & Whistleblower

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Posted on December 05 2018

Apologies for being dark. As most of you know I do in fact have an actual job and from time to time that requires my attention. Unfortunately that responsibility can and does get in the way of tweeting and blogging. Specifically blogging because taking <2 seconds to send a tweet is far less time consuming than spending hours researching and reading.

Those of you who know me in real life know that the 6 weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas I refer to as my “personal hell”. Meaning when the General Assembly is “in session” I’m running on full afterburners and tend to have limited free time to research. Yes adulting is overrated but that comes with responsibilities and I’m not one it merely phone it in out of expediency. I’d rather take the time and fully research a topic and then write a thoughtful & sourced blog entry.

For the record the following entry isn’t about the pervasive sexual harassment within our Armed Forces and in our workforce writ large. It is about the law, agency guidelines and impermissible retaliation of a Whistleblower.

 

See the State Department Whistleblower entry.

See the Environmental Protection Agency re Pruitt Whistleblower  entry

See the Department of Justice “Trump Loyalty” Whistleblower entry.

See the National Rifle Association Dark Money Whistleblower entry  

See the Trump Administration “succotash-I don’t recall” whistleblower entry 

See August 2018 Whistleblower Thread (below), if you had told me that one day I’d actually be defending Omarosa, I would have told you “hell no” but then came Trump. He essentially created Omarosa. Frankenstein also turned on his creator so there’s that weird parallel. But in all seriousness there are in fact laws that protect a whistleblower. Again see below for your primer.

 

 

Whistleblower Retaliation

It goes without saying that Donald Trump sucks the oxygen from the room, specifically various newsrooms. He masterfully controls and manipulates the news narrative. Over the past twenty-three months I have become increasingly frustrated with the larger Mainstream Media organizations. They are all fixated on Trump’s twitter account or what words he may blurt out during a press conference because Trump lacks impulse control. And then his “comment” gets wall to wall Cable TV news coverage.

Meanwhile important and far more newsworthy issues rarely get the attention they should. Case in point: United States Coast Gaurd Academy (USCGA), Sexual Harassment and Whistleblower retaliation.  For those that are unfamiliar with three years long investigation, the House Oversight Committee, specifically the ranking minority member Rep Cummings have repeatedly asked the USCGA for document production.

 

July 13, 2018 letter U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Karl L. Schultz:

We applaud the progress that has been made at the Academy, but are deeply troubled by the results of recent institutional assessments and questions about the Academy’s climate....Important strides have been made to expand the diversity of incoming classes, but challenges exist in ensuring that incoming students graduate to become officers and future leaders.”

 

October 29, 2018 DHS-OIG Report No OIG-19-03

In which the DHS-OIG alerted lawmakers to a search warrant regarding the whistleblower and specificity of their communications with Congressional Aides and investigators within DHS-OIG. If you’ve followed Mr Kelly you would know he’s not one to use words like “profound concerns” in a causal manner.

 

I write to notify you of my profound concerns regarding a search warrant recently executed by the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) against a DHS whistleblower....

I am deeply concerned that CGIS may be conducting a retaliatory investigation against the whistleblower. 

 

The DHS-OIG goes on to explain the timeline and effects this could have on future whistleblowers. It is remarkable to me that there were exactly ZERO articles from the big major news organizations. The only published reports of this “holy shit, stop hair on fire” report I can find are limited to the Military Newspapers.

 

..even if non-retaliatory, are likely to have a significant chilling effect on whistleblowers’ willingness to provide information to, and cooperate with, DHS OIG and Congress. These efforts also raise First Amendment concerns.

 

I can’t express how profoundly disappointing it is to see this particular investigation and all the twist and turns being ignored by the larger news outlets. This is in fact a big deal. As the October 2018 DHS-OIG Report states (see page 4) an AAUSA petitioned a Court, who subsequently authorized the search warrant of the Coast Guard Whistleblower and siezure of their Communications with DHS and Congressional Aides. Sorry but that’s a YUGE Deal.

 

 

November 5, 2018: Ironically not a single word from the House GOP or the Oversight Committee Chairman Gowdy. Which is hysterically ironic, given Gowdy wasted some $47M on Benghazi but. but. but.Her emails. <insert migraine enduring eye roll>. In all seriousness the only members of Congress to voice concern, essentially pulling down the fire alarm, Rep Cumings & Thompson:

 

“Any attempt to retaliate against whistleblowers or impede their right to contact Members of Congress or the Inspector General is intolerable and would likely violate the law....”

 

After a review of these materials and discussions with Coast Guard staff, we lack a complete picture of how allegations of harassment and bullying at the Coast Guard Academy during the past three years have been handled...To date, our investigation has been impeded by an ongoing lack of transparency from the Coast Guard. We strongly urge the Coast Guard to act in good faith to provide all documents requested.”

 

Generally speaking it isn’t a prudent course of action to subpoena and seize the whistleblower’s communications with two investigative bodies. Especially with one that has actual “oversight” powers. Nope, not at all...I should also add that nothing in this entry or subsequent twitter thread is “supah dupah secret”, it’s not like it’s locked up in a -password protected secret handshake. Nope, not at all. You simply need to go to the DHS-OIG website

 

You will need to know the DHS-OIG Case No: W17-USCG-WPU-16018

 

Specifically, a preponderance of the evidence established that her complaints were a contributing factor in the numerical marks in her OER for the period ending May 31, 2016....

The totality of the evidence demonstrated that Complainant would have received higher marks absent her complaints. DHS OIG thus recommends that the Secretary order corrective action with regard to Complainant’s OER.

 

Moving along to pages 3 & 4, the DHS-OIG Report particularized who and what was investigated. Making specific markers or the disparities. When you read the report in its whole, you’ll note a pattern emerging that being a whistleblower can make the situation worse, which is WHY we have laws in place to protect whistleblowers. Often times they are petrified to come forward and know they will be annihilated by their co-workers and superiors. As you will note this investigation was nearly three years in the making and it reached the highest ranks within the United States Coast Guard Academy.

 

 

..disparities in how the U.S. Coast Guard responded to Complainant’s bullying complaint compared to a later bullying complaint from a different member of the Academy....investigation also revealed potential disparities in how the U.S. Coast Guard responded to Complainant’s bullying complaint compared to a later bullying complaint from a different member of the Academy.

 

If you understand the Terms and Conditions (Ts&Cs) in an agreement, that often result from opposing parties who voluntarily enter in to mediation sessions. Then you will understand that if said agreement is breached, there are almost always built in remedies that should be equally weighted for all parties to the aforementioned “agreement”. Shortly after the Complainant and her superiors executed the “agreement” she was once again in a situation that she appears to have attempted to avoid, yet the USCGA opted to reassign her and her “new” superior (who was not party to the agreement), according to the Complaintant her new superior officer then breached the agreement.

 

 

They reported to DHS OIG feeling shocked after learning of the complaint....The Deputy Department Head was so angry that on the same day as learning of the complaint, he drafted an email to himself demanding that Complainant apologize, then resign, for having made the complaint...Academy Official1 notified the Civil Rights Directorate that after reviewing the preliminary inquiry report, “I have found that the allegations are not substantiated within the scope and depth of the
Preliminary Inquiry and have taken the following actions..”

 

Part of the known algorithm when it comes to sexual harassment complaints is the Complaintant is usually lower on the totem-pole and those who have “dominion” of them tend to “downplay” or sadly simply ignore said concerns. And predictably this leaves the Complaintant in a hostile work environment, resulting in minimizing the veracity of Complaint and they literally suffer in silence until: 1) they resign their post; and/or 2) transfer to another department; and/or 3) the offender is transferred but in the interim it came be an unbelievable hostile workplace. The dirty secret is those who are the offenders know this and they know eventually the Complainant will simply give up because no one takes their Complaint seriously. It’s awful but this is the day

 

 because she was frustrated by the response, did not have the stamina to go through an investigation with no worthwhile outcome, and feared retaliation. 

 

By January 2017 her complaints had reached the highest levels within the United States Coast Guard. I think it’s important to remember she originally came forward in May 2015 and endured a protracted period of retaliation. Unlike the private sector one can easily find a new job or has multiple avenues to seek a reasonable remedy. If you are in the Armed Forces your paths to remediate the Sexual Harassment, bullying and retaliation are in some ways deeply limited and often end up being career ending. Ask yourself would you have the fortitude to fight for nearly 3 years? To have multiple investigations & investigators all of whom found her complaint as credible.

 

 the evidence failed to reveal blatant acts of discrimination or bullying. The evidence presented, when reviewed as a whole, creates a picture of offensive conduct towards [Complainant] that is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

 

Upon the publication of the DHS-OIG Report No: W17-USCG-WPU-16018, found here,  (current) Ranking Minority Member (and presumptive Chairman, January 3, 2016) Reprentative Cummings issued the following statement:

It is intolerable that the Coast Guard has retaliated against a service member for making protected complaints of harassment and discrimination, and I expect the Coast Guard to immediately hold accountable all individuals who had any role in carrying out this retaliation.  

Service members, faculty, employees and cadets must be able to trust that every allegation of bullying, harassment, and retaliation at the Academy will be taken seriously and handled appropriately.  The Coast Guard should immediately implement all of the Inspector General’s recommendations to improve the process for handling complaints, and it should finally produce the complete and unredacted documents I have requested so Congress can conduct the oversight that is clearly needed.”

 

Congress plays a vital role in Oversight. To that end in 1988 Congress wanted to ensure military personnel could/would report wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. In the initially addressed whistleblower rights and protection for military personnel in 1988 with the enactment of the “Military Whistleblower Protection Act”. See 10 USC §1034 the actions chronicled in the DHS-OIG report should give all of us pause, the Statute is crystal clear and the retaliation this whistleblower endured are impermissible. In 2012 this Act was amended to afford similar protections to civilians, clearly these Coast Guard Officers didn’t get that memo. And instead subjected this whistleblower to nearly three years of retaliation.

 

 

 

And yes I understand the difference between sexual harassment vs assault. Nonetheless to the Department of Defense’s credit, they established the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office (SAPR) who’s primary role is to train and track sexual assault and harassment within the DOD. Notwithstanding in May of 2018 our DOD published their annual Sexual Assault report, found here. A belief summary of the May 2018 SAPR findings:

 

        •  service member reporting of sexual assault increased by about 10 percent in fiscal year 2017.
        • The increase in reporting occurred across all four military services.
        • department received 6,769 reports of sexual assault involving service members as either victims or subjects of criminal investigation, a 9.7 percent increase over the 6,172 reports made in fiscal 2016.

  

SAPR contemporaneously published Appendix F, found here. The aggregated data isn’t that surprising but certainly should be reviewed in its entirety:

 Sexual harassment jeopardizes combat readiness and mission accomplishment, weakens trust within the ranks, and erodes unit cohesion. Sexually harassing behaviors may lead to disciplinary or administrative actions.

And yes while the Armed Services are making strides, but there’s clearly much work that needs to be done, as explained by Vice News some six months ago

-Spicy Out  

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