At their meeting last week in Prague, BBG members made it clear and voted to include whistleblower protection language in their otherwise controversial resolution to limit disclosure of agency information.
The amendment to assure BBG employees that their rights and protections as potential whistleblowers will not be negatively affected by the non-disclosure resolution was offered by BBG Governor Victor Ashe who had other serious reservations about the resolution as well. On this issue, other BBG members agreed with him and voted to adopt the amendment on the whistleblowing protection language.
However, when the resolution was posted on the BBG website, it had no reference to whistleblowing protections, even though the Board wanted them included and voted that it be done.
The final wording of the resolution was presumably the responsibility of the BBG deputy general counsel Paul Kollmer-Dorsey. He was present during the meeting in Prague and participated in the Board’s discussion on the whistleblower protection language amendment.
Why then the BBG’s GC did not follow the Board’s clear decision on this issue?
Perhaps this is yet another one of many mixups by the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) senior executive staff. Surely, Mr. Kollmer-Dorsey would not try to get back at Governor Ashe for publicly questioning his legal arguments in favor of the controversial resolution. It was probably a mistake at a much lower level, we hope. Clearly, Mr. Kollmer-Dorsey would not have forgotten that he participated in the discussion on the amendment and that the vote took place.
While the resolution, as posted on the BBG website, did not advise BBG employees that their rights as potential whistleblowers are fully protected, it included the following warning of punishment and disciplinary actions for the violators of the BBG non-disclosure policy:
Disclosure of deliberative information is a serious matter and constitutes both mismanagement and misconduct. The unauthorized disclosure of official non-public information is prohibited by 5 CFR 2635.703, and employees engaging in the unauthorized disclosure of deliberative information may be subject to punishment or discipline.
The following is a partial transcript from the BBG meeting in Prague dealing with the adoption of the whistleblower protection language amendment:
BBG DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “As far as whistleblowing is concerned, if I may, whistleblowing has a very specific meaning. It means reporting wrongdoing to a law enforcement body. It doesn’t mean disclosing something to the press, or something like that. I would find it difficult, I would be surprising myself if someone were to engage in whistle blowing and then the Board decided that it would punish that Governor, punish that staff member for having done that.”
ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT:
” We could put it, Paul.”
BBG DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “Yes.”
ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: We could put in this policy that nothing in this policy affects any rights, ability to whistleblow, have any effect on whistleblowing protections, or something to that effect.”
BBG DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “Or we could just say it should be interpreted.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: ” Mr. Chairman, I move that it be amended to say that nothing in this protocol shall negatively impact the federal Whistleblowers Act by a member of the Board or employee of BBG. That’s my motion.”
ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: “That’s a motion.
BBG GOVERNOR MICHAEL MEEHAN: “I second.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “Wait, Mr. Kollmer, do you have it written down. Let’s make sure you have it written down as phrased or you can replay the tape”
BBG DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “I think I’d like to replay the tape to make sure I’ve got the name of the statute correct and probably the legal citation as well.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: ” I didn’t put in. I just said the Whistleblowers Act, but you can.”
BBG DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “I think we have to do that, if that’s the Board’s wish, by referring to a specific statute, to actually get the name of the statute correct.
ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: “I think the intent, however it’s worded, we want to be clear that nothing in this affects the ability or any rights of a whistleblower, or protections of a whistleblower. So whatever language is appropriate to memorialize our intention in that respect. Is that what I’m hearing from you?, Governor Ashe?”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: On this issue, I think the Board agrees.”
ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: “So we have. Are you OK with that, Paul? I have a motion and second.
BBG GOVERNOR SUSAN McCUE: I have a…No, go ahead, vote on that.”[…]
ALTERNATIVE PRESIDING GOVERNOR DENNIS MULHAUPT: “Let’s finish. We have a motion that’s been moved and seconded with regard to whistleblower. Is there further discussion. All those in favor say aye. Opposed? So that’s adopted.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “Amendment one has been agreed to.”
According to Wikipedia, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a United States federal law that protects federal whistleblowers who work for the government and report agency misconduct. A federal agency violates the Whistleblower Protection Act if agency authorities take (or threaten to take) retaliatory personnel action against any employee or applicant because of disclosure of information by that employee or applicant. Whistleblowers may file complaints that they believe reasonably evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.