U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES
PRESS CONFERENCE ON INVESTIGATION INTO WHISTLEBLOWER ALLEGATIONS THAT ARMY
CORPS OF ENGINEERS MANIPULATED ECONOMIC STUDY OF MISSISSIPPI RIVER AND
ILLINOIS WATERWAY PROJECT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12/4/00
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan will hold a press
conference on Wednesday, December 6th at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the results
of an investigation into Dr. Donald C. Sweeney’s allegations that
officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) engaged in violations
of law, rule or regulation and a gross waste of taxpayers’ funds. Dr.
Sweeney, a Senior Regional Economist with the Corps, will be joining Special
Counsel Kaplan at this news event to be held at 1730 M Street, NW, Suite
300, Washington, D.C.
In February 2000, Dr. Sweeney alleged to the Office of
Special Counsel (OSC) that Corps officials manipulated the cost benefit
analysis on the feasibility of wide-scale improvements to the navigation
system on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway in a way that
resulted in a positive proposal for unnecessary and expensive improvements
potentially costing in excess of one billion dollars. He alleged that Corps
officials failed to comply with appropriate laws, rules and regulations when
they manipulated key variables pertaining to the required cost benefit
analysis contained in the Corps’ feasibility report. Dr. Sweeney was the
original technical manager of this economic feasibility study.
Based upon the information that Dr. Sweeney provided to
the OSC, Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan determined that there existed a
substantial likelihood that Corps officials engaged in violations of law,
rule or regulation and a gross waste of funds.
Pursuant to her statutory obligation (5 U.S.C. § 1213)
on February 24, 2000, the Special Counsel requested that the Secretary of
Defense investigate Dr. Sweeney’s allegations and report back to OSC his
findings, including plans for any corrective actions and/or disciplinary
actions resulting from the investigation, within the statutory time frame of
sixty days. Extensions of this deadline were requested four times by the
Department of Defense and granted by OSC.
On Wednesday, December 6th, the OSC will transmit
Secretary Cohen’s report to the White House and the Congress. As required
by statute, the transmittal package will include the report, as well as
Special Counsel Kaplan’s assessment of whether the report contains
necessary information and whether its findings appear reasonable, along with
Dr. Sweeney’s analysis. Copies of the Department of Defense’s report,
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan’s transmittal letter and Dr. Sweeney’s
comments can be obtained at the news conference.
The OSC is an independent federal agency. In addition to
investigating and prosecuting complaints of unlawful retaliation, the OSC
provides federal employees with a secure channel for blowing the whistle on
violations of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement or waste of
funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public
health and safety. By law, the OSC is empowered to require agencies to
conduct investigations whenever the Special Counsel finds a substantial
likelihood that a federal employee’s disclosures demonstrate the existence
of one of these conditions. After the OSC reviews the agency report to
assess whether it meets the requirements of the statute, it transmits the
report to the President and the Congress for further action by those
entities, if appropriate. The report is also made available to the public as
required by law.