U.S. Office of Special Counsel announces corrective and disciplinary action settlement in whistleblower retaliation case concerning public safety
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
May 12, 1999
|U.S. Office of Special Counsel
For Immediate Release – 5/12/99
Contact: Jane McFarland
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced the favorable settlement of two complaints filed with it by Mr. Stephen Robinson and his wife, Amelia Bruno, longtime seasonal employees of the National Park Service (NPS), against NPS. Mr. Robinson made protected disclosures concerning tour boat safety at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Mr. Robinson complained to OSC that the NPS had violated the Whistleblower Protection Act when it failed to rehire him for seasonal summer work at Crater Lake. His wife complained that she had also been denied employment as a direct result of her husband’s disclosures.
Under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Bruno will receive full corrective action, including backpay, and the NPS will suspend their former supervisor for thirty days. Prior to the settlement, during OSC’s investigation into their allegations, the NPS reassigned their former supervisor, the Park Superintendent, out of Crater Lake Park.
Beginning in the summer of 1992 and continuing through the summer of 1996, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Bruno held seasonal appointments at Crater Lake, Oregon. In the summer of 1996, Mr. Robinson made protected disclosures when he notified park officials and his Senator about safety issues associated with Crater Lake’s tour boat operation. Mr. Robinson’s concerns included insufficient training and lack of certification for boat operators, lack of safety equipment, unreliability of boat engines and improper operation of boats in inclement weather. When Mr. Robinson and Ms. Bruno attempted to return to Crater Lake for the 1997 season, they were unable to obtain employment at the park. They were again denied employment at Crater Lake for the 1998 season.
Mr. Robinson and Ms. Bruno first contacted OSC in April 1997, alleging that because of Mr. Robinson’s protected whistleblower disclosures, Crater Lake Park officials blacklisted them and denied them employment and housing for the 1997 season. When OSC’s investigation revealed strong evidence that Mr. Robinson and Ms. Bruno were denied employment in retaliation for Mr. Robinson’s disclosures concerning the safety of the tourist boats, the NPS fully cooperated with OSC in obtaining corrective relief for them and the disciplinary action against their former supervisor.
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan said that she was pleased by both the corrective and disciplinary remedies agreed to by the Park Service. “The Park Service’s decision,” she said, “should send a clear message to its employees that there’s a price to be paid for retaliating against whistleblowers.” Kaplan said that “the offending supervisor not only got transferred out of the park, but he will also serve a suspension without pay.” Kaplan said she appreciated “the cooperation of the Park Service in resolving this matter based upon OSC’s investigative findings.”