A senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday asked the FBI whether it planned to discipline senior supervisors after a ruling by a federal jury that the bureau retaliated against a former veteran agent.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said in a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III he was assured by the director on “many occasions” he would not tolerate retaliation against FBI whistleblowers and asked how he now intended to deal with the supervisors held accountable for the acts of retaliation.
Two weeks ago, a Minneapolis civil jury of six women and four men unanimously held that the FBI illegally retaliated against agent Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, by downgrading her performance reviews. The jury awarded her $60,000 in lost wages and $505,000 for punitive damages.
Ms. Turner had claimed in a lawsuit that FBI supervisors falsified negative performance reviews in retaliation for her filing of an equal-employment opportunity complaint and that she was subjected to “continued hostility” after reporting another agent’s removal of a Tiffany crystal globe from ground zero at the World Trade Center.
“Given that her allegations have now been substantiated, I am writing to you to for information about how you intend to hold supervisors accountable for the acts of retaliation,” Mr. Grassley wrote.
In the letter, he asked Mr. Mueller how many FBI supervisors had been disciplined for acts of retaliation over the past five years and what disciplinary actions, if any, would be taken against the FBI officials for their involvement in or approval of the acts of retaliation against Ms. Turner.
Mr. Grassley, a longtime FBI critic who also serves as ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, also asked Mr. Mueller to explain what roles, if any, supervisory Special Agents Craig Welkin, James “Chip” Burrus and James Casey played in the Turner case.
Mr. Welkin, who directly supervised Ms. Turner when she filed her discrimination complaint, has since retired. Mr. Burrus is the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division and Mr. Casey is chief of the bureau’s counterterrorism section.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Mr. Grassley said. “Now that a jury has substantiated retaliation by the FBI in this case, I am anxious to find out what the FBI will do to demonstrate that your commitment to protecting FBI whistleblowers is more than just words.
“Unless retaliators are held accountable, the FBI culture will not change,” he said.
Mr. Grassley, who asked Mr. Mueller for a written response by March 7, has been an outspoken advocate for Ms. Turner since a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said agents improperly removed items from the site of the September 11 terrorist attack in New York City.
In a Feb. 26, 2004, letter to Mr. Mueller, the senator said Ms. Turner had a “duty and obligation to report such misconduct,” adding that her “reward was continued hostility, and the FBI eventually initiated termination proceedings against her.”