After ethics officials blocked the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from firing a woman who refused to lie for top bosses, the bosses took a different tack: paying her $305,000 to quit and agree not to apply to the VA again.
Her bosses tried to force Rosayma Lopez to write a critical report to be used to terminate Joseph Colon, who had exposed the drunk-driving and illegal-prescription drug arrest of Dewayne Hamlin, director of the VA’s hospital in San Juan.
When Lopez said she would stick to the facts, her bosses filed the termination paperwork intended for Colon against her instead.
After she sought protection from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), a federal agency that investigates whistleblower retaliation in government, OSC ordered VA to restore Lopez to her job. But VA refused, instead paying her to sit at home for nine months.
When OSC reiterated the demand, VA reluctantly restored her job, but then offered her $150,000 to quit and agree not to re-apply. Lopez declined the offer, which she had never requested, and made clear she just wanted to keep her job.
Lopez’s job involves processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, so VA officials worried she could disclose embarrassing information to future requesters. She was assigned a new boss, who insisted on handling FOIA responses himself, by telling requesters they would be charged thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. To justify the exorbitant charges, he claimed that simple requests that would take five minutes to fulfill would require dozens of hours of top staffers’ time.
Lopez was also moved into a…
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