Reports of retaliation by the Commerce Department against whistleblowers are being investigated by Rep. Frank Lucas and others on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Together with Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren of California, Lucas and California Republican Congressman Jay Obernolte sent a letter to the Inspector General at the Commerce Department. They notified IG Peggy Gustafson their committee has launched a probe into allegations of whistleblower retaliation and other misconduct.
Rep Lucas and the other members notified her that senior employees are being called in for transcribed interviews pursuant to this investigation.
“The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is investigating allegations that you and senior members of your office have engaged in whistleblower retaliation,” the Members wrote.
“These reports also allege gross mismanagement, lack of productivity, and the publication of false or misleading statements to Congress. Based upon the allegations received and evidence reviewed, the Committee has concluded that further investigative steps are warranted.”
It is unlawful for any officer of the executive branch to retaliate against employees for lawful disclosures. But the possibility that an IG, who is tasked with holding their parent agency accountable for such actions, could have themselves retaliated is unfathomable.
“Inspectors general are empowered by Congress to identify and inform the Legislative Branch regarding incidents of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. To accomplish this, inspectors general must work with whistleblowers and maintain strong reputations in their parent agencies to facilitate a disclosure friendly environment. For this reason, retaliatory behavior from within offices of inspectors general against their own staff fundamentally undermine the purpose of the OIG and will not be tolerated,” the Members wrote.
The Members directed the IG to have the specified employees made available for transcribed interviews with Committee staff by April 20, 2023.
The full letter is available here.