The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) long ago proved that it should not be taken seriously, particularly in matters connected to former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
OSC did not help its already sullied reputation with a recent finding that whistleblower Tamarah Grimes’ allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in the Siegelman case were “unsubstantiated.”
OSC’s report is dubious on its face. It fails to address perhaps Grimes’ two most serious allegations–that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary remained involved with the case after her supposed recusal and that prosecutors pressured witnesses to remember events a certain way.
It is interesting to note that those two charges can clearly be substantiated–the first with e-mail evidence that Grimes provided to the Department of Justice, the second with similar accounts from a number of other individuals. Is that why OSC did not want to touch those issues? Does that raise questions about the validity of OSC’s entire investigation?
The report becomes even more dubious when you consider OSC’s recent history. Federal agents raided the office of former OSC chief Scott J. Bloch in May 2008 amid allegations of improper political bias and obstruction of justice. The New York Times reported that agents were trying to determine if Bloch, a 2003 George W. Bush appointee, had hired an outside firm to scrub his computer.
Gee, where would a Bush loyalist ever come up with such an idea?
As we reported last November, substantial evidence indicates Bloch and associate deputy attorney general David Margolis did their best to sweep Grimes’ allegations under the rug and protect Leura Canary. And it appears that Bloch, before leaving office with the feds on his tail, removed Grimes’ most serious allegations–making sure investigators would not even look into them.
How bad have things been at OSC in recent years? Consider this article from governmentexecutive.com in May 2009. It provides a searing analysis of the agency’s woes:
The Office of Special Counsel is an independent oversight agency charged with protecting federal employees from prohibited personnel practices, particularly whistleblower retaliation. For an agency that must build a reputation for fairness with federal employees and other agencies, scandals like the ones during Bloch’s tenure can be especially harmful.
“There was a lot of damage done,” says former Deputy Special Counsel Timothy Hannapel, who served under Clinton-appointed Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan. “We’d tried to put the agency on a new path to credibility and . . . it was all just erased and in a drastic way, with the credibility of the agency at rock bottom.”
The agency’s credibility is “at rock bottom,” according to a former insider? And we are supposed to believe that OSC conducted a fair, thorough investigation of Tamarah Grimes’ charges?
Things do not appear to have gotten any better at OSC in recent weeks. With Bloch’s exit, William E. Reukauf became interim special counsel. Reukauf issued the report on Grimes’ allegations, and his biography raises questions about whether he was able to approach the task in an impartial manner.
Reukauf is described in press reports as a career Department of Justice employee. But he was elevated to the role of associate special counsel in 1985, under the Reagan administration. He was appointed interim special counsel by George W. Bush.
A source tells me that Washington, D.C., insiders say Reukauf is a “Bush flunkie” and has been one since at least 1983. Our source also says that Reukauf worked for President George H.W. Bush about the time that Bill Canary worked in the White House as a special assistant for intergovernmental affairs.
Consider this item from Bill Canary’s biography:
A former local elected official, Canary has an extensive background in the public policy and governmental arenas. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed him to serve in the White House as special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs.
Canary, now head of the Business Council of Alabama, just happens to be married to . . . Leura Canary. Mr. Reukauf wouldn’t have issued a seriously flawed report in order to save the skin of his buddy’s wife, would he?
Tamarah Grimes was quick to point out the dysfunctional environment from which the OSC report sprang. Says Grimes:
The OSC report dated 9-29-09 is particularly egregious in that its conclusions are based on DOJ’s internal investigation. The gist of the OSC report is: Based upon information obtained from DOJ, in an investigation conducted by DOJ, we conclude that DOJ acted reasonably and within statutory limitations.
No one has been appointed as special counsel since former Special Counsel Scott Bloch resigned under a cloud of controversy late last year. Thus, based upon the OSC reports, it would appear that the Office of Special Counsel is a rudderless organization where no one is willing to stick his or her neck out for fear of reprisal.
After observing my fate and the fate of other whistleblowers, who could blame them? The irony is that the OSC is “the” whistleblower organization!
Grimes notes the high cost she has paid for bringing prosecutorial misconduct to public attention. She says change is desperately needed in the federal government’s whistleblowing procedures:
None of this is likely to change unless the public demands change from the only entity with the authority to investigate–Congress. Congress has oversight authority over DOJ.
Today my life and my career are in shambles for performing my duty as a federal employee, for telling the truth and speaking out. Tomorrow it could be anyone–for without accountability, there is no justice.
Will anyone hold Leura Canary and her henchmen in the Middle District of Alabama accountable? Does anyone in the Barack Obama administration, particularly Attorney General Eric Holder, have a clue what is going on in “The Heart of Dixie”? Will Congress ever carry out its duty and investigate the Bush DOJ?
We still are waiting for answers to those questions.
Roger Shuler, a regular contributor to The Public Record, resides in Birmingham, Alabama. A 1978 graduate of the University of Missouri, Shuler worked 11 years as a reporter and editor for the Birmingham Post-Herald before working 19 years in several editorial positions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He blogs at Legal Schnauzer.
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