- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A longtime FBI agent who claimed 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 has been awarded $565,000 by a federal jury for lost wages, damage to her reputation and emotional distress.

A Minneapolis civil jury of six women and four men unanimously held that the FBI illegally retaliated against Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran FBI agent, by downgrading her performance reviews. She was awarded $60,000 in lost wages and $505,000 for punitive damages.

Mrs. Turner’s right to have the case heard before a jury was ordered by the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in Minneapolis after a lawsuit she filed in 2001 was dismissed in 2004.

Among FBI officials named in court documents as participating in the retaliatory actions were James Burrus, the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal division, and James Casey, a high-level official in the FBI’s counterterrorism program.

The $565,000 judgment is expected to be reduced by Chief U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum, who heard the case, to the statutory limit of $360,000.

“The buck stopped here. Jane Turner is an American hero,” said Stephen M. Kohn, one of her attorneys and the president of the National Whistleblower Center. “She refused to be silent when her co-agents stole property from ground zero. She paid the price and lost her job.

“The jury did the right thing and ensured that justice will take place in her case,” he said. “… The FBI misused its performance review and inspection process to justify vicious retaliation against an award-winning agent.”

Mrs. Turner’s performance had been attacked by FBI managers after she filed her lawsuit and disclosed what the appeals court described as serious FBI misconduct in its handling of child-abuse cases. Her complaint in the World Trade Center matter led to an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which confirmed Mrs. Turner’s accusations.

In the Minneapolis lawsuit, the court said the timing of performance rating downgrades for Mrs. Turner by the FBI “strongly supports an inference of causation.”

The court said Mrs. Turner wrote a memo to her second-line supervisor, Mr. Burrus, referring to her equal employment opportunity complaint and accusing her immediate supervisor, Craig Welken, of discriminatory treatment. It said Mr. Burrus forwarded the memo to Mr. Welken and five days later, Mr. Welken wrote an interim performance review downgrading Mrs. Turner from “superior” to “minimally acceptable/unacceptable” in all rated areas.

“The fact that it was not a regularly scheduled performance review and occurred less than two months after the regular annual review in April … is further circumstantial evidence that the performance rating downgrade was motivated by Turner’s complaints,” the court said.

Mrs. Turner was then transferred to the Minneapolis field office and resigned in October 2003 after the FBI had initiated termination proceedings.

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