U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT OF FAA WHISTLEBLOWER’S COMPLAINT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 6/24/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the settlement of a prohibited personnel practice complaint filed by Charles Lund, an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Mr. Lund alleged that the FAA proposed his demotion in retaliation for an e-mail that he sent to FAA executives and industry personnel in which he revealed what he believed were flaws in FAA’s safety oversight of U.S. air carriers flying to Russia.
Mr. Lund, an Aviation Safety Inspector who acted as the Manager of International Operations and Programs, was concerned that FAA’s inspectors have not been able to obtain the necessary multiple-entry visas to conduct adequate safety oversight of U.S. carriers while on Russian soil. In November 1999, the complainant sent an e-mail to numerous individuals stating these concerns. He was issued a letter of proposed demotion in March 2000, which charged him with sending an e-mail message “to persons inside and outside the agency that had the potential of causing undue concern, discrediting the agency and disrupting agency operations.”
OSC concluded that there existed reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Lund’s demotion violated the Whistleblower Protection Act. That Act makes it unlawful for an agency to take a personnel action against an employee because he has disclosed what he reasonably believes is evidence of a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety. When OSC advised the FAA of its concerns, the FAA agreed to attempt to settle Mr. Lund’s complaint without the need for further investigation or litigation.
Under the settlement, without admitting liability, the FAA agreed to rescind the proposed demotion and pay for the complainant’s attorney’s fees. FAA also agreed to present OSC training on the Whistleblower Protection Act to FAA staff in the division where the prohibited personnel practice complaint originated. In exchange, Mr. Lund agreed to withdraw his complaint, and OSC agreed to close its investigation.
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan praised the FAA for its “excellent cooperation in achieving a fair and proper settlement of Mr. Lund’s complaint.” She added that “in also agreeing to provide training to its employees and managers regarding their rights and responsibilities under the Whistleblower Protection Act, the FAA is doing the right thing both as a federal manager and as the steward of aviation safety.” She observed that, “through this agreement the FAA demonstrates that it appreciates the key role that its own employees can play in promoting the public safety, when they are assured that they can air their concerns about possible weaknesses in the aviation safety system, without fear of retaliation.”
The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging the commission of prohibited personnel practices at federal agencies. In cases where an OSC investigation reveals reasonable grounds to believe a prohibited personnel practice has been committed, and an agency declines to voluntarily provide relief to a complainant, OSC will prosecute a petition for corrective action before the Merit Systems Protection Board. In many cases, such as this one, OSC obtains relief for complaining parties through settlement, before it makes a formal finding regarding the merits of the complaint.