U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES ESTABLISHMENT OF SPECIAL
COUNSEL'S PUBLIC SERVANT AWARD PROGRAM AND ITS FIRST RECIPIENT, DR. DONALD
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 3/6/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Under the leadership of Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced that it has established the Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award Program. The award has been established to recognize the contributions that federal employees make to the public interest when—often at great personal risk—they make significant disclosures of violations of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; a serious abuse of official authority; or a specific and substantial danger to the public health and safety.
OSC also announced that Dr. Donald Sweeney, an economist with the St. Louis District of the Army Corps of Engineers, is the recipient of the first Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award. Last year, Dr. Sweeney provided OSC with information demonstrating a substantial likelihood that Army Corps of Engineers officials had exerted improper influence and manipulated a cost-benefit study in order to obtain approval of a public works project on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway. The project involved the expansion of locks along the Upper Mississippi at an estimated cost of between 750 million and 1.1 billion dollars. An investigation conducted by the Department of Army, on the basis of OSC’s transmittal of the disclosure, substantiated Dr. Sweeney’s allegations.
The Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award is a non-monetary, merit-based award whose purpose is to publicly recognize the most significant of the contributions made by the whistleblowers who have either filed protected disclosures with OSC or who have sought relief from OSC on the grounds that they have suffered retaliation. Under the program, on the basis of the nomination of OSC staff, the Special Counsel will authorize the issuance of an award after consideration of several factors, including the significance of the disclosure in terms of its public interest impact; the significance of tangible or intangible benefits to the federal government resulting from the disclosure; the strength of substantiation of the disclosure; and the initiative or perseverance shown, or risk taken, by the individual making the disclosure.
Special Counsel Kaplan observed that, “This Award Program recognizes the courage, perseverance, and contribution made to the public interest by whistleblowers like Dr. Donald Sweeney, whose disclosures averted the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars, and resulted in the recognition of systemic abuses at the Army Corps of Engineers that might otherwise have gone unnoticed and unremedied. Dr. Sweeney and other federal employee whistleblowers like him deserve this special recognition because they embody the finest tradition of federal employment; their first loyalty is not to themselves or to any institution, but instead to the public they serve.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency whose basic mission is to guard against prohibited personnel practices, with special emphasis on protecting government whistleblowers. It also provides a secure channel for federal employees to make protected disclosures of information evidencing a substantial likelihood that violations of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; an abuse of official authority; or a specific and substantial danger to public health or safety has occurred or is occurring.