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Special Inquiry: DOE/IG-0910

May 15, 2014

Review of Allegations Regarding Continued Retaliation Against a Bonneville Power Administration Whistleblower

On December 5, 2013, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) received a letter from the then Chairman, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requesting that the OIG immediately investigate allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers that helped uncover violations of veterans’ preference at the Bonneville Power Administration (Bonneville).  The Chairman specifically communicated complaints alleging a pattern of continued retaliation against a particular Bonneville Human Capital Management (HCM) staffer by his supervisor. 

In July 2013, we issued a Management Alert on Allegations Regarding Prohibited Personnel Practices at the Bonneville Power Administration (DOE/IG-0891).  In October 2013, we also issued a Special Inquiry Report on Review of Allegations Regarding Prohibited Personnel Practices at the Bonneville Power Administration (DOE/IG-0895).  In addition to identifying inappropriate hiring practices, both reports outlined apparent examples of retaliatory actions against a number of HCM staff members, who either cooperated in our inquiry and/or who had previously raised personnel-related concerns with Bonneville’s management and Department officials.  Upon receipt of the Chairman’s letter, we immediately initiated a special inquiry to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation.

Based on the weight of the evidence, the allegation that certain actions taken by the supervisor of an HCM staffer represented a pattern of continued retaliation was not substantiated.  In fact, the record showed that Bonneville senior management actively monitored the relationship between the staffer and his supervisor and took steps that, in our view, prevented even the appearance that an adverse personnel action was being taken against the staffer.  While the supervisor denied any retaliation by stating that the allegations were unfounded, misrepresented, or resulted from a miscommunication, we found evidence that he had lost trust in the staffer’s ability to perform his duties. The supervisor told us that his concerns were based on incorrect policy advice given by the staffer, which the supervisor asserted had contributed to Bonneville’s veterans’ preference hiring problems and because of other administrative issues. Because no internal controls or other deficiencies were discovered during our inquiry, we are not making formal recommendations.

Topic: Management and Administration