Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dangerous Subversive at Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau of Reclamation, part of the Department of the Interior, is charged with the duty of overseeing various water projects.  Bureau biologist Charles Wahl is currently the subject of a smackdown and potential firing after e-mailing environmentalists from his office computer, an action deemed to be subversive.


Washington, DC -- The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has proposed to fire a biologist after finding e-mails he had sent to environmentalists and to other agencies, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In its letter of proposed termination, the agency alleged the "subversive" activity of communicating with "environmental organizations which are opposed to Reclamation generally and adversarial in nature" justifies immediate removal.

Communicating with entities that are generally adversarial?!!  The audacity!  Why stop at immediate removal?  If an employee communicates with, dare I say it, environmentalists (gasp!!!), shouldn't there be a greater penalty?  Say, forced servitude for a period of not less than 7 years?  Well, there apparently was more.

Charles (Rex) Wahl, a GS-12 Environmental Specialist, has been on paid administrative leave for the past three months while the agency continues to ponder his fate. Shortly after Wahl was notified of his proposed firing on September 18th, the Bureau of Reclamation also dismissed his wife Cherie from a temporary clerk-typist position.

Perhaps a coincidence?  Given recent events at a sister agency, the EPA, involving suppression of scientists and destruction of library materials, I would suspect not.  (The EPA actions are also covered at the PEER site and subjects of my earlier posts.)

Apparently, one's job description is not a shield to agency retribution.

PEER again:

Ironically, Wahl's main duty in Reclamation's Yuma Area Office was to keep stakeholders, including environmentalists, abreast of agency "actions and initiatives" as required under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In addition to his contact with environmentalists, Wahl is also charged with revealing "administratively controlled information" to other federal agencies.

PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein:

"Federal employees are not required to swear bureaucratic omertà - silence at the expense of the public interest," Dinerstein added. "Part of the Bureau of Reclamation's problem is that it apparently regards environmentalists as enemies. Contrary to its paranoid posture, Reclamation is required to be forthright about the implications of what it is doing."

Here is the 10 page proposed termination letter (pdf).

Here is the 37 page responsive affidavit filed by MR.Wahl.

Conform or be cast out.


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