In May 1997, I reported in this space on the case of John White – a highly respected civilian educator with more than 40 years of experience in military and civilian education – vs. the Air Force.
White’s tale of woe has turned out to be not only a horror story about a good man who took on a corrupt system and got the shaft, but also part of a pattern of lies by minor government officials regarding small matters that foreshadowed the obfuscation at the national and international level so rampant today.
Five years after a federal circuit court hearing remanded White’s case back to the Merit Systems Protection Board, White won another legal victory, the fifth such decision in White’s case by the MSPB court. The federal court had directed the MSPB to validate only White’s conclusion that an Air Force Education and Training program – Quality Education System – was incompetently constructed and constituted gross mismanagement as would be reasonably determined by an objective observer.
MSPB Judge Elizabeth Milligan accordingly found the testimony of Dr. Ralph Bohn and Mr. Michael Curtis, the two bureaucrats responsible for the flawed program, “not credible.”
But Air Force lawyer Phillip Tidmore completely ignored the federal court’s directive in what Las Vegas attorney Richard Segerblom, who is representing White, describes as “the most abusive misuse of the legal system I have seen in my 20 years defending whistle-blowers. Tidmore and his co-conspirators … have effectively nullified every provision of the Whistleblower Protection Act.”
Attorney James Klimaski, who also represents White, calls the case “a conscious effort by the government agencies to gut any whistleblower protection.”
Meanwhile, all those supposedly maligned high-ranking brass that Tidmore was directed to protect are now drawing fat-cat retirement paychecks while Citizen White twists on the hook over almost a half-million smackers in legal fees incurred for standing tall and fighting for what’s right.
When Klimaski and Segerblom filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court on White’s behalf, folks at the Government Accountability Project, a Washington, D.C., government watchdog, were so appalled that they joined in the fray. Together with the American Federation of Government Employees, the Fund for Constitutional Government, the National Association of Treasury Agents and the Project on Government Oversight, they rallied in support of the Supreme Court petition and filed an amicus brief.
In its infinite wisdom, the Justice Department took the unusual step – on a case categorized by Tidmore as a strictly administrative, nonlegal matter – of responding with a lengthy legal brief in opposition. And the case was then remanded back to Judge Milligan.
White, a Korean War vet accustomed to working with straight-shooting commanders, had always found his superiors open to the truth. At first it shattered his faith in the military to learn that politics had replaced professionalism among his top leadership. But even after his ouster as education officer and a punitive assignment to a job far below his ability and qualifications in a military personnel office – and before he gained any legal victories – every one of his military bosses gave him superior performance ratings, as noted in Judge Milligan’s decision. But you had better believe that more than one officer’s career was ruined for “aiding and abetting” White.
Ignoring White’s recommendations to kill the QES program while it was on the drawing boards cost millions of taxpayer dollars. And after he blew the whistle and stopped the program dead in its tracks – saving you and me millions of bucks – Air Force management showed its gratitude on our behalf by trying to bring him down and set a strong example that would scare others into silence.
Early on, pit-bull Tidmore, now the only opponent still standing, labeled White “disloyal” and “obstreperous.”
Yet, even after the judge said this wasn’t so and pointed to his exemplary record as proof, Tidmore has still persevered and pursued White’s case all the way to the Supreme Court – at taxpayer expense.
As Segerblom puts it, “Tidmore’s managed to keep the case from a final decision by filing frivolous appeals.”
Congress must re-examine the Whistleblower Protection Act and figure out how to make it functional.
And every working stiff out there should be outraged over the treatment of Citizen John White at the hands of Big Brother. Any good person who chooses the hard right over the easy wrong could be next.