Top House lawmakers want to know whether the Transportation Security Administration has retaliated against managers by forcing some to take unwanted reassignments.
It’s a matter that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates claims of federal whistleblower retaliation, has decided to examine, taking up the case of two female TSA managers who say they were reassigned after raising concerns about security gaps.
In the latest request for information from the beleaguered homeland security agency, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week sent a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger. Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., requested that the agency provide policies and procedures for so-called directed reassignments and information on why it recently modified its policy on the practice.
A TSA spokesman said the agency has received the letter and will respond directly to the committee. A spokeswoman for Chaffetz declined to comment.
The letter follows a series of meetings current and former TSA employees have had with congressional investigators about allegations of misconduct and mismanagement by senior leaders. A Reveal story on Monday reported that agency insiders say at least two dozen TSA managers have faced involuntary reassignments over the past few years. Chaffetz has sent a flurry of letters to the TSA since December, when he launched an investigation into misconduct within the agency. The House Homeland Security Committee also is probing the TSA.
The latest TSA employees to have their retaliation claim investigated by the Office of Special Counsel are Sharlene Mata and Heather Callahan Chuck. Both say they received directed reassignments in 2014, shortly after they made formal discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and raised flags about security gaps. Chuck and Mata each learned this week that the Office of Special Counsel will investigate their allegations.
In all, the office received 87 claims from TSA employees of prohibited personnel practices by the agency in fiscal year 2015, a spokesman said.
Chuck had been the agency’s director of field operations and a federal security director in Phoenix before she moved to Honolulu. She resigned in 2015. Mata had been deputy director of field operations and deputy federal security director in Honolulu, where she oversaw TSA security in the neighboring islands. She was reassigned to Seattle, where she now is an assistant federal security director.
Mata said they sought out the Office of Special Counsel after getting no response from the agency’s leadership.
“Not one person has tried to make this right, and not one person has wanted to speak with us,” Mata said. “They just wanted this to go away.”
Andrew Becker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ABeckerCIR.