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U.S. Office of Special Counsel

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    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel today announced the favorable settlement of its Petition for Corrective Action against the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on behalf of Mr. Neil Jacobs, Assistant District Director for Investigations in the agency’s Dallas office. OSC’s petition, filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), alleged that the INS had violated the Whistleblower Protection Act in October, 1998, when it suspended Mr. Jacobs for 21 days and ordered his reassignment to a non-supervisory position.

    Mr. Jacobs had filed a complaint with OSC alleging that the INS suspended him and proposed his reassignment in retaliation for testimony he gave before the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. In his testimony, he disclosed possible fraud and other abuses involving the INS Dallas District Office’s processing of 10,000 naturalization applications. Mr. Jacobs was also perceived to have provided similar information critical of the “Citizenship USA” program to the news media. 

    The OSC filed a petition with the MSPB to stay Mr. Jacob’s proposed reassignment, and the Board granted OSC’s stay request in November 1998. Subsequently, OSC requested and was granted an indefinite stay of the reassignment.

    On April 12, 1999, Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan sent a 23-page Report of Prohibited Personnel Practices to INS Commissioner Doris Meissner. The report outlined OSC’s investigative findings that Mr. Jacobs had been a victim of whistleblower retaliation. Kaplan requested that the INS provide full corrective action to Mr. Jacobs, including rescinding his proposed reassignment and providing him with backpay and other appropriate relief.

    On May 25, 1999, the OSC filed its petition for corrective action after the INS Commissioner failed to respond to its Report of Prohibited Personnel Practices requesting voluntary corrective action. After months of discovery, the matter was scheduled for a hearing at the end of this month.

    As a result of the settlement, which was today approved by MSPB Chief Administrative Law Judge Paul Streb, Mr. Jacobs will receive a reassignment to the Hawaii District Office in a position of equivalent grade and pay, with relocation expenses paid for Mr. Jacobs and his family; restoration of 120 hours of annual leave and 120 hours of sick leave; payment of his attorney fees; backpay with interest and retirement contributions for 19 days of the 21-day suspension that Mr. Jacobs served; and an additional lump sum amount of $30,000. Special Counsel v. INS, CB-1214-99-0056-T-1)(March 10, 2000).

    Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan said, “Before Mr. Jacobs made his disclosures, he was honored at the White House for his work. He received many awards, including an award from Vice President Gore and another from the Ford Foundation.” Kaplan stated that, “our investigation uncovered significant evidence that the personnel actions INS subsequently took against Mr. Jacobs were in retaliation for his Congressional testimony.” While Kaplan noted that she was “disappointed that INS did not voluntarily provide corrective action to Mr. Jacobs when we gave the agency our findings,” she expressed satisfaction that “the petition OSC filed on behalf of Mr. Jacobs resulted in a very favorable resolution of his case,” and that “the settlement itself will afford him relief sooner than we could have achieved it had the case proceeded through the MSPB.” Kaplan concluded, “As this case demonstrates, OSC is committed to protecting whistleblowers like Mr. Jacobs, through litigation, if necessary.”