A federal whistleblower investigator who put his career on the line to expose what he calls bureaucratic dysfunction has been fired, NBC Bay Area has learned.
Darrell Whitman, a former San Francisco-based investigator for the Whistleblower Protection Program administered by OSHA, claimed the agency failed to defend workers who faced retaliation for reporting illegal activity and public safety concerns.
“They got rid of the squeaky wheel,” Whitman said.
He now views his own termination from OSHA as retaliation for raising red flags about the agency.
“I was going to report what I thought to be violations of law and policy,” Whitman said. “They were going to have to answer to those reports and they didn’t like that.”
In an interview with NBC Bay Area earlier this year, Whitman said he tried to warn OSHA leaders that his managers pressured investigators to close complaints without proper review to clear a backlog of cases. He also said his supervisor altered his reports by changing his conclusions and dismissed cases even when Whitman found they had merit.
Whitman wrote letters to OSHA leadership and to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.
“I had gone through every conceivable channel and what I saw was inaction,” Whitman said.
In a Notice of Removal written in May, OSHA states it fired Whitman for six different reasons including “lack of candor during an investigatory meeting” and “unauthorized release of government documents.”
“The real reason was that I appeared on [NBC Bay Area News],” Whitman said.
Whitman is now a complainant before the Office of Special Counsel, another government agency which protects federal employees from retaliation for whistleblowing. If he is successful, Whitman’s claim could result in a settlement with OSHA or include financial reinstatement.
Tom Devine, the legal director for the Government Accountability Project based in Washington D.C., is representing Whitman. Over the past three decades Devine has testified before Congress, helped pass whistleblower laws and assisted thousands of whistleblowers defend themselves against retaliation.
A critic of OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program, Devine believes Whitman’s allegations have merit.