Here is the message I sent before. I announced the date and time of my appeal hearing at the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division 2, at Tacoma on May 12, 2003, at 9 a.m. and attached an open letter to President Bush.
Charles W. Heckman
Veterans’ Voting Bloc
Veterans’ Employment Issues
Charles W. Heckman
This is an update on my experiences with veterans’ preference and employment discrimination against veterans. Please note that there was a typographical error in my first notice concerning my appeal before the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II, Tacoma, to be held in the courtroom at 950 Broadway, Suite 300, Tacoma, at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 12, 2003. The date is May 12, not May 2. Veterans’ preference will be argued! Please come if you can.
The Federal issue:
Below is an open letter to President Bush. He was already informed about this situation, and I was contacted by Mr. John Lopez of the Department of Agriculture, who noted my ongoing appeals, suggesting that it is my job to see to it that the abuses I reported are corrected. I previously circulated a reply to him as well as letters to and responses from Steve Nelson of the Merit System Protection Board, who has told the American Legion that my case represents a “favorable settlement” for a veteran. These letters are available to anyone who wants them on demand.
Please note that the arguments used by the U. S. Court of Appeals in striking down free medical care for retired military personnel do not apply to veterans’ employment. The following is true of veterans’ preference:
Therefore, employment preference is indisputably a legal right of disabled veterans, veterans of the Vietnam Era, and certain veterans who have served during national emergencies, such as the Gulf War. The Federal government consistently violates this right, and the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury has been denied to veterans seeking redress. Instead, veterans have to go before a kangaroo court without real judges, which is a part of the same agency that is violating their rights.
Veterans’ preference laws in the states are parallel the Federal laws, although there are some differences, and they are violated in the same ways.
In a nutshell, here are some facts about veterans’ employment
1. The Veterans Employment and Training Service of the U. S. Department of Labor is supposed to provide assistance to veterans who are discriminated against in employment. It has an annual budget of about $179,000,000. It takes fewer than 1 in 1000 of the discrimination complaints from veterans to court. It is effectively useless and a waste of money.
2. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the U. S. Department of Labor is also responsible for processing complaints from veterans who are discriminated against by Federal contractors. It has an enormous budget, but does nothing unless the veteran spends years in court trying to make it take some action against delinquent contractors and is lucky enough to find a judge who will hear his case.
3. State employment agencies receive large grants each year from the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) to provide special services to eligible veterans. For example, Washington receives almost $4 million per year as DOL grants for its veterans’ employment services. In some states, there is no significant difference between the numbers of veterans and non-veterans these agencies place in jobs, while in others, veterans have significantly poorer chances of finding a job. In any case, most states are able to divert the money they receive for other purposes.
4. The attorneys general of many states have spent large amounts of tax dollars fighting veterans claiming their preference rights in court. For example, Attorney General Christine Gregoire of Washington has spent over $185,000 during the past four years to have the courts strike down the state’s veterans’ preference statute.
5. Some Federal agencies and many contractors employ almost no veterans with statutory preference rights. For example, the U. S. Department of Education, Peace Corps, and Department of State have made it a point to exclude Vietnam Era veterans from their work forces. Colleges and universities also refuse to hire veterans. The VETS-100 reports show that the college in the State of Washington with the best record employs only about half as many Vietnam Era veterans as it should according to local availability, while the largest university employs only about 1/3 of that number. The statistics fail to show that those veterans employed are doing only the most menial jobs at the lowest salaries.
6. The U. S. Department of Labor is required to obtain VETS-100 reports each year from every college and university with a Federal contract, yet a response to a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that about half of the colleges and universities in the State of Washington had failed to file these reports as required. It also revealed that Washington State University had made a mistake filling out the form each year, making the data impossible to interpret. Nobody at the Department of Labor has even noticed these discrepancies.
An open letter to President Bush
315 93rd Ave., S.W.
Olympia, WA 98512-9101
Tel. & FAX (360) 352-8564
April 8, 2003
President George W. Bush
The White House
RE: An open letter
Dear Mr. President:
You have directed Federal civil servants to blow the whistle whenever they observe illegal or wasteful actions within their agencies. As I told you in my recent letters, I did that on several occasions and was fired and blacklisted by the United States Department of Agriculture, United States Forest Service. Several of the actions that I reported and others that came to light during the subsequent hearing before the Merit System Protection Board are felonies. Since you have made it a requirement to disclose illegal and improper actions, should you not also see to it that the situation is corrected and the whistleblowers protected?
It is particularly galling for whistleblowers to know that they have lost their jobs and future chances for employment because they reported criminal actions or waste, and that the persons responsible have been allowed to continue stealing and wasting without even having to face an investigation into their activities. Now I have received a letter from Mr. John Lopez, personnel director for the Department of Agriculture, suggesting that it is my responsibility and mine alone to see to it that the illegal actions and waste are stopped through appeals and civil lawsuits. Apparently, he believes that the Department of Agriculture has no responsibilities for criminal actions by its employees. He fails to note that the Merit System Protection Board, which has grossly mishandled my appeal, has no jurisdiction to correct gross waste and criminal activities and that the Department of Agriculture not only failed to investigate the agency grievance I filed while I was employed by them, it even permitted the perpetrators of felonies to openly and admittedly take reprisal against me for filing it. The waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Forest Service on junk science that I attempted to report through a published white paper has continued, even though Station Director Thomas Mills could find no scientific justification for continuing to support it during his testimony before the Merit System Protection Board. Similarly, the failure to perform research meeting the statutory requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan was explained away to Congress and to the courts with arguments that the Forest Service does not have scientists capable of such research. This may be true because Director Mills fires them!
The problem, however, goes much deeper. During my first contact with the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the Forest Service, I was offered a $20,000 bribe to withdraw from a selection for a research scientist in Alaska. The money was to be misappropriated from Forest Service funds earmarked for equipment purchases and laundered through the University of Alaska. This bribe was offered because the Forest Service personnel wanted to keep veterans of the Vietnam War out of their organization, which is dominated by persons who were of draft age during the Vietnam War but remained at universities with student deferments until the draft was abolished. I have further learned that it is almost impossible for a veteran of the Vietnam War to find employment in a scientific or academic field in the United States. The reason the bribe was offered in lieu of canceling the selection to avoid hiring me was to violate my rights to preference in civil service employment. My disclosure of this offer with proof that it had been made was my first disclosure protected under the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. It was verified through an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which persisted nevertheless in reporting the offer as a “grant” rather than a bribe.
Although the two Forest Service employees were “punished” for committing a minor violation of personnel practice, the attempted theft of the $20,000 and bribe were not even addressed by the investigator. It is my understanding that this kind of theft and bribery in an amount in excess of $10,000 are felonies. One employee received a suspension without pay for one week, and her supervisor received a letter of reprimand because he told the investigators that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong. The employee was given a large grant a short time later, and both were given fully satisfactory performance evaluations for the period in question by Director Mills.
After I was hired at another laboratory under a settlement agreement, Station Director Mills assigned a newly hired program manager to produce a false record of poor performance as justification for firing me one day before the end of the probationary year. Although the agency did not have a scrap of evidence that my performance was less than outstanding, the Merit System Protection Board accepted the unsupported allegations of Deanna Stouder and Peter Bisson, the two assigned to get rid of me, on the grounds that no proof of anything is required during the probationary year. He ignored as irrelevant the mountain of evidence disproving their allegations and also ignored the fact that both Bisson and Strouder could be shown in their recorded testimony to have committed perjury several times. He also dismissed the fact that I had been given “assignments” not relevant to my written work assignment, which required me to work more than 60 hours per week for a period of more than six months in order to complete. He simply stated that as an “exempt” employee, I was required to work as many hours as demanded, which contradicts both the relevant Federal regulations and a statute.
The main bone of contention were assigned reports that I wrote showing that $208,000 was being wasted on a junk science project, and part of another $130,000 grant was being wasted by Bisson on a fish survey using a method that had already been discredited by the early 1960s and had been further shown in 1998 to decimate populations of endangered species. My “resistance” to falsifying these reports was given as the main reason for my dismissal. The administrative law judge grudgingly admitted that the disclosure of the waste of $208,000 was a second disclosure protected by the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, but the disclosure about the fish survey was declared not to be because I did not know that my supervisor was planning to use the method at the time I submitted the report.
Unfortunately, when I was hired, I did not know that it was acceptable performance for civil servants to steal, bribe, and commit perjury. Thus far, all Federal agencies I have contacted have condoned and protected these activities. The administrative law judge for the Merit System Protection Board, Sidney Farcy, expressed the opinion that science by government agencies must conform to “budgetary and political realities.” In the context used, he was clearly stating his opinion that scientists employed by the Federal civil service must produce false reports on demand or be fired.
It has been almost four years since I was fired, and I have not been able to find any other employment, in part because I am a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and in part because Deanna Stouder of the Forest Service has been releasing parts of my false employment record over the phone to prospective employers to prevent me from being hired. Such release of records without my permission is a criminal violation of the Privacy Act, which has been confirmed by affidavits.
Recently, Mr. Steve Nelson of the Merit System Protection Board told a group from the American Legion that while his board has never ruled in favor of a veteran, veterans are helped in other ways. He then used my case as an example of a “favorable settlement.” Bribery, perjury, falsification of official records, and four years on the blacklist apparently constitute what Mr. Nelson considers “favorable” treatment for Vietnam War veterans.
President Truman said about the Presidency that “the buck stops here.” Your order to Federal civil servants to blow the whistle will only serve to encourage the honest and dedicated employees to step forward and be fired, while the crimes they report continue to be committed with impunity. In this way, lawbreakers, like Station Director Thomas Mills, will continue to weed out the honest and replace them with persons dedicated to stuffing their own pockets with the taxpayers’ dollars, providing in return only mendacious reports obtained by junk science methods. This matter is now in your hands. Please let me know whether you are ready to take any action against the criminals who seem to dominate the Department of Agriculture, or whether it is acceptable for them to steal, bribe, lie, and blacklist those who report it. If my two years of combat service in Vietnam have earned me anything, it should at least be a clear answer. How much is a Federal employee permitted to steal?
Charles W. Heckman
Letter from John Lopez, Department of Agriculture
Response to John Lopez
Correspondence with Steve Nelson, Merit System Protection Board