SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

March 17, 2011

Top lawmaker protests 'whistle-blower' demotion

WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department demoted a senior career employee who confidentially complained to the inspector general that political appointees were improperly interfering with requests for federal records by journalists and watchdog groups.

The new Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigating those practices told the Obama administration that the decision "appeared to be an act of retaliation" and warned, "Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., urged Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to remind employees about their rights and whistleblower protections and "make DHS managers aware of the consequences for retaliation against witnesses who furnish information to Congress."

Issa accused the administration of improperly demoting Catherine Papoi, listed on the DHS website as a former deputy unit chief in charge of the Freedom of Information Act. It escalated the political drama over a broad congressional inquiry into President Barack Obama's promises to improve government transparency.

Issa sent a five-page letter, obtained by The Associated Press, to the department late Wednesday, describing his concerns about Papoi's employment. It did not ask Napolitano to reinstate her.

"Denying or interfering with employees' rights to furnish information to Congress is against the law," Issa wrote. "Federal officials who retaliate against or otherwise interfere with employees who exercise their right to furnish information to Congress are not entitled to have their salaries paid by taxpayer dollars."

The Homeland Security Department said Papoi was not technically demoted because she never lost pay or benefits, although Papoi's new boss, Delores J. Barber, took over her title as deputy chief FOIA officer and moved into Papoi's office. As a GS-15 federal worker, Papoi, who has a law degree, earns between $99,628 and $129,517. Under the federal employment system, a demotion usually involves loss of a pay grade. Papoi is on leave.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The Nation

AP Video
Former Va. Governor's Corruption Trial Begins Trial Begins Over OKC Bombing Video $15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. Maine Police Investigate Deaths of Family of 5 UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Obama Asks Central American Leaders for Help Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma
NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years