Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Justice Department Whistleblower Is Fired in Alabama

A U.S. Department of Justice whistleblower has been fired from her job after speaking out about wrongdoing in the Middle District of Alabama.

Tamarah Grimes, who served on the prosecution team in the case against former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, received notice of her termination on June 9.

A legal aide in Montgomery, Alabama, Grimes first came to public attention last November after Adam Zagorin, of Time magazine, broke a story about her allegations of wrongdoing by the prosecution team in the Siegelman case.

Grimes provided documents to Justice Department watchdogs showing that Leura Canary, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, had stayed on the Siegelman case long after she had supposedly recused herself. Grimes also provided evidence of improper contacts between jurors and members of the prosecution team.

More recently, attorneys for Scrushy had requested permission to interview Grimes about allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during the Siegelman/Scrushy case. And on June 1, Grimes submitted a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, providing more details about misconduct in the Siegelman case.

Roughly one week after those two events, Grimes received notice of her termination.

Terry Derden, from the DOJ's Executive Office for United States Attorneys, notified Grimes of her termination. The agency claims the firing was unrelated to her whistleblower actions, Grimes said. A press release from Grimes about her termination states:

In a letter sent to Ms. Grimes' attorney on June 9, 2009, the agency stated that the whistleblower disclosures were unrelated to her termination. Rather, on behalf of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, Mr. Derden alleges that Ms. Grimes's termination arose from a management decision made (in an) after-hours meeting in the lobby bar at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama, during an active mediation more than 3 months after the agency learned of Ms. Grimes's whistleblower disclosures.
Grimes said her termination does not square with much of what she had been told as a DOJ employee:

"As a federal employee with a previously exemplary record, the decision to engage in protected activity and file whistleblower claims under the 'No Fear Act was a careful decision made of necessity and conscience. In consideration of necessity, as federal employees, we are continuously reminded of our duty to report waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct. We are assured that the U.S. Department of Justice is an Equal Employment Opportunity workplace. We are even offered 'safe conduits' for making EEO and whistleblower claims.

"It is my hope that any federal employee who may be considering a decision to engage in protected EEO or whistleblower activity under the 'No Fear Act' will learn from my example. In reality, there is much to fear from filing an EEO claim or a whistleblower claim under the 'No Fear Act,' and there are no 'safe conduits' for making such claims. Ultimately there is little value in the performance of your duty as a federal employee, or even as a loyal citizen of the United States, if the result is loss of your security clearance and termination of your federal employment. The knowledge that you have admirably performed your duties as a federal employee cannot pay the mortgage or buy food for your family when you are rewarded with whistleblower retaliation."

Grimes says she is the second employee to be terminated in the Middle District of Alabama for opposing unlawful conduct in the workplace. A third employee, she says, awaits her fate after seeking relief from violence in the workplace.

Can someone act on behalf of DOJ employees who report wrongdoing? That, Grimes says, probably will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder:

"My hope remains with the Attorney General of the United States. I remain confident that Mr. Holder will provide assistance to the employees of the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Alabama, to wrongfully terminated former employees of the U.S. Attorney's Office, and to citizens of the United States within the Middle District of Alabama whose interests have not been well served under the Canary administration."


madranger said...

The word "whistleblower" has been assigned to any conscienced reporter revealing facts contrary to immoral thug's actions...especially if the thugs have the Power.

There should be another word coined that connotes honor to such revolationists.

Patricia Grassick said...

I, too, was fired from the US Attorney's Office in Providence, RI because I advocated for my rights, believing that it was my protected right to do so. I have physical limitations from a disability that the Agency knew of since 1994. I not only did my job, but excelled, advanced and set up two automated litigation support departments where none existed in DE and RI. In comes Robert Corrente appointed by the Bush administration in 2004 and he didn't like my limitations. In 2005 the discrimination began, quickly followed by retaliation. I was cornered by a male supervisor twice my size, ordering me to work OT after my tour which I couldn't do because of my disability. He never received discipline, but I was suspended for five days without pay. Hostility was ongoing until 03/28/08 when I was walked out of the office like a criminal and fired because of my "documented medical conditions," AWOL because my supervisor refused to approve leave when I was hospitalized, and excessive absence -- I had back surgery in 9/07 and Corrente wouldn't allow me to return part-time. I also believed I was protected under the "No Fear Act" -- I had reported the discrimination, prohibited personnel practices and racism (Corrente referred to the Admin division as the "monkey house" and it's managed by an African-Americal woman who supervises several minority employees) to my Senators, Congressman, 3 Deputy Attorney Generals and OIG. Like Ms. Grimes, it only served to increase management's determination to get rid of me. My record did not help me either. I had received many awards during my 21 years with Federal service, including a $5,000 award in 2004 for the sacrifice and contribution I made to the District of RI -- My development of the lit support department saved tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars during my tenure because ALS projects were no longer outsourced -- My duties included data management, audio/video synchronization, trial preparation, graphic design and production, but it didn't matter. The recognization of my work with the $5,000 occurred before Corrente came in. After that, I couldn't even get mid-year reviews which I was entitled to law. I, too, have great confidence that he will impact what is very wrong within the US Attorney's Office. Corrente tried to get into a Federal judge position twice and a State judge position twice and failed. Perhaps my reporting to my representatives had some positive impact. My cases are before EEOC and MSPB and I am representing myself (not by choice). It's a difficult process even with my background, and I'm expecting the judges to find some loophole to find in favor of the Agency. My heart goes out to those who don't have resources to hire an attorney and can't get past the Agency EEOC level -- their General Counsel attorneys have bullying down to an art form and it works in most cases to beat the victim into submission until they just go away. I'm not ready to leave yet. pgrassick@yahoo.com

legalschnauzer said...


Thanks for sharing your story. Discrimination and abuse is alarming in any workplace. But it's particularly disturbing when a federal or state entity does it.
Best wishes to you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I was fired for being a witness in an EEO case and I have since filed my EEO case for retaliation. The Bay Area Reporter did an investigative article on our story called “Women complain of Anti-Gay Harassment at Oakland VA”, which can be found at: http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=4060

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not practice what it preaches. The Regional Counsel also does not follow EEO time lines and regulations. My discovery will be approaching 1 year when it is supposed to take no longer than 180 days. Where is the "equality" in the equal employment opportunity commission when there is no objective magistrate to make the Agency cough up the evidence and abide by the rules? The Agency is the gate keeper to the evidence. That is like the cops asking a murder suspect to produce the evidence that would incriminate the murder suspect. Thankfully there are judges who can sign search warrants so the police can get the evidence themselves, but this is not the case in EEO process. The victim must negotiate with the devil and convince the Administrative Judge why the victim needs a particular document or piece of information to demonstrate their case. This is ridiculous. The government should be held to its own gold standard. Private businesses can be sued for millions of dollars for the same mistakes yet the government can do whatever it wants. Essentially government employees have no rights. All the literature you read is just bogus props. And most attorneys don't know enough to represent federal employees so good luck trying to find one. We have been representing ourselves in the process and let me tell you EEOC does NOT level the playing field.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks so much for writing. Your story is very interesting, and I hope to do a post on this case shortly. Certainly hits home for me.


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