Monday, March 2, 2009

Recently a friend e-mailed me a news item in the Washington Post about a man named Bob Whitmore. The article was a discussion of how Whitmore, an OSHA employee, has been on administrative leave for over a year while OSHA does nothing about it. I'm not going to discuss the specifics of the case (because I'm not familiar with it), instead it raises an interesting and often frustrating conundrum that we all have to deal with from time to time: not being able to defend the agency against criticism. I'm not talking about the appointed people sitting in front of Congress mealy mouthing platitudes, I'm talking about those of us who are career people getting caught in the political crossfire and having to shoulder the brunt of public anger.

I mentioned in a previous post why it takes so long for us to promulgate a new standard, but nobody from OSHA will ever say so publicly. Why? Because we work for the President and he gets to decide what direction our agency takes. That's the system, we are simply not an independent agency like the SEC. Is it frustrating sometimes? It sure is.

In Whitmore's case he filed a whistle blower complaint against the agency, which, I think rightfully, precludes OSHA from saying anything. It wouldn't be fair to publicly say Whitmore did this or said that when doing so could potentially bias a judge in the case who might read the article, and it is simply is not right for management to discuss personnel issues publicly. The problem is, from what I've heard from people who work with him, Whitmore is a bully, an ass, and a lunatic. But OSHA can't say that.

So how do we deal with this? We remember that ours is a just cause, that we are helping others, and that we will be here for a long time.


  1. I don't know the specifics either, however, with as lenient as life is as a civil servant... for someone to be on suspension (or whatever the technical HR term is in his case) for that long period of time -- there has to be something to it. Especially if there was all this criticism.

    What does not play into his hands is his intelligence. Why would he rock his own gravy train? He has to know that if brought back, it would be to count rubber bands, so why bother. Pretty dumb move.

  2. Blame the victim.

    Bob might be everything that you say, but he is still a whistleblower. Perhaps he had a conscience. He couldn't allow the administration to continue to cook the books. The idea that a poultry plant employing 700 employees with ZERO injuries and illnesses is absurd; Bob knew that.

    This story made national attention a long time ago.

    Bob has since testified in front of congress concerning this issue.

    In any case, I don't think he asked to be put on administrative leave.