OSC Seal

U.S. Office of Special Counsel

1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 300

Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


(202) 653-7984      

    Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it had reached a favorable settlement agreement with the Department of Air Force (AF) on behalf of Mr. Blant Norris Reeves, an AF employee, who filed a complaint with OSC alleging whistleblower retaliation. Under the terms of the settlement, while not conceding that it violated the law, the AF agreed to provide corrective relief to Mr. Reeves, including a lump-sum monetary payment, and to provide Mr. Reeves’ supervisor with prohibited personnel practice training.

    Mr. Reeves was a term employee for Eglin Air Force Base (EAFB) in Florida, working as a Physical Scientist in its Environmental Management Restoration Division under a four-year appointment. His duties included preparation for the renewal of EAFB’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste permit with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

    In December 1996, Mr. Reeves telephoned EPA and reported that his first-level supervisor was “shielding” hazardous waste sites from EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). He told EPA, that contrary to the RCRA permit reporting requirements, EAFB planned to conduct confirmatory sampling investigations on waste sites before reporting them to EPA and FDEP. Mr. Reeves also wrote to his second-level supervisor and related substantially the same disclosure that he had made to EPA. The following day, he also wrote to his first-level supervisor and enclosed his letter to his second-level supervisor. Thus, his first-level supervisor became of aware of his disclosures to the second-level supervisor and eventually to EPA.

    About one week after Mr. Reeves’ disclosures, his first-level supervisor reassigned all of his job duties on waste sites to other employees and told him to return any government documents or computer files to the office. The supervisor also told Mr. Reeves that he planned to remove his access to the local area computer network and change the phone system to preclude him from being bothered by e-mails or telephone calls.

    Within two months of the disclosures, the first-level supervisor switched Mr. Reeves’ position number with that of another employee such that his term appointment would expire two years earlier than scheduled. On October 1, 1997, the agency separated Mr. Reeves through a reduction-in-force. Prior to his separation, Mr. Reeves received a performance appraisal rating that he alleged was not consistent with his performance during the period under review. Mr. Reeves, ultimately, found alternative and permanent employment with the Air Force at another facility in April 1998.

    OSC’s investigation into these personnel actions, confirmed that Mr. Reeves’ first-level supervisor had retaliated against him speaking to EPA without following the chain of command. Under the settlement agreement, the AF will provide Mr. Reeves with backpay and interest for the approximately six-month period he was unemployed and will raise his performance rating. His former first-level supervisor will be required to undergo training in the prevention of prohibited personnel practices.

    Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan praised the Air Force for its prompt response to OSC’s investigative findings. She stated that “the Air Force was responsive and cooperative in this investigation from the get-go. Both agencies [OSC and the Air Force] wanted to provide Mr. Reeves with a just settlement.” Kaplan stated that she was “pleased that the Air Force shared OSC’s goal of protecting Mr. Reeves from retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosures,” and expressed her “hope that other agencies would follow the Air Force’s example.”