By Sarah Damian. Published September 25 by the Government Accountability Project. Reposted with permission.
Today, U.S. Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl and his attorneys since 2007 at the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Marine Corps and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for the successful resolution of his seven-year Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) complaint.
Gayl is the Marine Corps science advisor whose disclosures ended delays in delivering the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their absence had accounted for well over half of combat deaths and other casualties in those wars, which dropped by over 90 percent after their delivery. He and another national security whistleblower, Robert MacLean, also proposed reforms that President Obama eventually adopted as Presidential Policy Directive 19. PPD 19 created free speech rights for whistleblowers making disclosures inside their agencies, outlawed retaliation through security clearance actions, and upgraded due process rights to challenge security clearance reprisals.
Gayl paid a nightmarish price for his MRAP disclosures, even though he was acting at the direction of America’s top field general in Iraq, who had been unable to secure delivery of the lifesaving vehicles for well over a year. From 2007-2014 Gayl endured a reprimand, several suspensions, a criminal investigation, threats of removal for unacceptable performance, removal of duties, partial loss of his security clearance credentials, proposed demotion and salary cutoff, and other forms of harassment. The turning point came in 2011, when Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner obtained a stay of ongoing retaliation, and the case moved into mediation.
The settlement maintains Gayl’s current position. Significantly, it also includes an award, and appointment to a new team committed to develop and recommend policy guidelines for the Marine Corps on WPA rights and responsibilities. Team members must exercise sound judgment and work with integrity.
Gayl commented, “I am thrilled at the outcome. The real value is in how the Marines and I, a Marine my whole life, go on viewing each other. If I make it to old age that is all that will matter for me; knowing that in spite of the institution’s dislike for my techniques and disclosures, that I meant well and I am still considered part of the family. We still have separate issues outstanding, but the climate has changed for the better, I think permanently. I wish to thank the Corps and the Office of Special Counsel for hard work and dedication to the merit system. Most of all, I’d like to thank my wife for her loyalty during a seven-year nightmare from which we never knew if we would wake up. Without her, I could not have made it.”
Gayl’s attorney, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, added, “In my experience, it is unprecedented to appoint a whistleblower to help any agency develop policy for whistleblower rights, let alone a military service. The Marines deserve credit where it is due. This victory would not have occurred without the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, whose lawyers stopped the bleeding and whose Alternative Disputes Resolution unit healed the wounds with marathon determination. Hopefully, this will be a precedent for whistleblowing disputes to end through consensus, instead of conflict.”
OSC Alternative Disputes Resolution Chief Jane Juliano and OSC Dallas Regional Office Chief Anne Gullick led the mediation.
Sarah Damian is Interim Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
[Editor’s Note: Franz Gayl’s support team included Dr. Donald Soeken, psychologist and president of the Whistleblower Support Fund. Gayl’s struggle with reprisal is described in additional detail in Dr. Soeken’s book, “Don’t Kill the Messenger! How America’s Valiant Whistleblowers Risk Everything to Speak Out Against Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Government and Business.“]