Whistleblower who Reported Contracting Violations Wins Retaliation Lawsuit

Date Published:

Whistleblower who Reported Contracting Violations Wins

Whistleblower who Reported Contracting Violations Wins

A former employee at Canaveral National Seashore has won a whistleblower retaliation ruling against the U.S. Department of the Interior. According to Florida Today, the whistleblower alleged contracting violations, nepotism and other misconduct.

The whistleblower, a biological science technician at the park, filed the retaliation lawsuit in 2011. In December, a federal civil service judge in Atlanta ruled that she was subjected to assault, harassment and adverse personnel actions in retaliation for reporting contracting violations. The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board ruling became final this month when the parks service decided not to appeal.

The whistleblower alleged in her lawsuit that park staff split $18,000 in construction into increments of $2,000 or less. Under federal procurement rules, single purchases are limited to $3,000 for supplies, $2,500 for services and $2,000 for construction. Purchases must be put out for competitive bid if these limits are exceeded. By making split purchases, the staff was able to hire vendors without competition in the construction of a storage facility and other work. Some of the work was given to relatives, the suit alleges.

The OIG found that two park employees violated federal policy and ethics rules in 2011. The employees circumvented procurement regulations by making the split purchases, the OIG found. The U.S. Assistant Attorney did not pursue criminal prosecution. The OIG also found that the superintendent of the park failed to address the whistleblower’s concerns, despite being aware of the allegations as early as May 2011.

Although the whistleblower retaliation suit has concluded, Florida Today reports that the park is again under federal scrutiny due to similar allegations of improper purchases. The whistleblower alleges that the park continued to engage in illegal procurement even after her 2011 complaint. This prompted a second investigation by the U.S. Department of Interior’s OIG. According to reports submitted to the OIG in October, the park staff continued to make split purchases in 2014 on roughly $25,000 in construction projects. The projects involved the demolition of a lifeguard building, sign modifications and screening, septic, roofing and other work.