The Washington Post

Special counsel Carolyn Lerner shaking things up


Carolyn Lerner, second from right, the head of the Office of Special Counsel, photographed last month in her Washington office with staffers. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

Since she took over the obscure investigative unit that reviews disclosures of government wrongdoing — and advocates for employees who are punished for reporting it — the employment and civil rights lawyer, 46, has shown a willingness to shake things up.

In several high-profile cases, Lerner has gone to the mat and tried to expand the boundaries of the law’s protections for whistleblowers. She has lifted long-sagging morale at an agency that, instead of behaving as an independent watchdog, has treaded water for much of its existence.

Lerner’s staff is tackling neglected cases, in contrast to her predecessor, whose office had thrown many out, and claims have shot up since she arrived, Lerner says. She has challenged judgments by the panel that decides civil service disputes. And she has called for wholesale changes to the law prohibiting politicking by public employees so local and state workers can run for office, even if their jobs are tied to federal funding.

Once she took office last year, Lerner quickly reassigned staff members to review a backlog of cases against whistleblowers — veterans hospital staff members reporting poor lab procedures, air traffic controllers claiming flight-pattern dangers — who were facing reprisals.

Read Lisa’s full profile to see how those whistleblowers have fared. Then sound off in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

Supreme Court case involving Idaho lake house ignites conservative cause against EPA

Billions needed to upgrade America’s leaky water infrastructure

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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