Whistleblower Fired from Army Arsenal Ordered Reinstated
CHICAGO (AP) _ A judge has ordered reinstatement of a government whistleblower who was fired after he revealed unsafe practices at the Army’s Rock Island Arsenal.
Charles ″Curt″ McRae, a pilot fired two years after he turned in his supervisors, also will receive back pay under the order filed Thursday by Administrative Law Judge Phillip N. Miller.
Miller said McRae’s appeal to the Merit System Protection Board had supported his allegation that his firing was in reprisal for activity protected under a federal law that protects whistleblowers.
The decision by Miller will become final on May 3 unless a party to the matter appeals to the merit board, or the board decides to reopen the case.
″I am very happy, I mean very happy, that the judge looked at all the facts and ruled in our favor,″ McRae said in a telephone interview Friday from his home.
McRae said he had at times doubted he would be vindicated in the battle with his superiors at the northern Illinois base.
″This will kind of reaffirm that if you’re willing to wait and be persistent, the system will work, yes,″ McRae said.
McRae, who has been looking for other work, said he wants to go back to his military job, but would report violations again if he saw them.
Al Schwartz, an Army spokesman at the arsenal, said there was no immediate decision on how the agency would proceed.
″We have received Judge Miller’s decision and at this time we are reviewing it in detail. Once we have completed our review we will determine what our action will be,″ Schwartz said.
McRae’s reinstatement is retroactive to Nov. 29, 1989, the date he appealed his firing.
At hearings held two weeks ago in Rock Island, McRae said he complained and went over aviation chief Neil Pobanz’s head after Pobanz repeatedly ignored pilots’ complaints about poor aircraft maintenance and unsafe practices.
McRae was hired as a pilot for the arsenal in 1982. He was fired Nov. 17, 1989, more than two years after he reported mishandling of dangerous chemicals and explosives, among other flight-safety violations.
A month after he made his complaints in September 1987, McRae was grounded by Pobanz.
Acting on McRae’s tip, Army investigators found assorted violations, including failure to report aircraft mishaps, transportation of unauthorized personnel, failure to notify the airport of hazardous cargo and falsification of officials documents.