A Marine Corps civilian who wrote a scathing internal report arguing that the Corps could have saved hundreds of lives by approving a 2005 request for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles in Iraq has won his whistelblower compliant.
Franz Gayl has reached a settlement mediated by the Office of Special Counsel under which he will keep his job, received an award and will become part of a new team that will develop and recommend policy guidelines for the Corps on whistleblower rights and responsibilities, according to the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group that represents Gayl.
"This resolution not only vindicates me but also my loyalty and dedication to the Marines, which never wavered," Gayl said in a Thursday news release from the Government Accountability Project. "I wish to thank the Corps and the Office of Special Counsel for hard work and dedication to the merit system. Most of all, I'd like to thank my wife for her loyalty during a seven-year nightmare from which we never knew if we would wake up. Without her, I could not have made it."
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner praised both Gayl and the Marine Corps for reaching an agreement to Gayl's whistleblower complaint, which was filed in 2007.
"We hope the Gayl settlement encourages more whistleblowers to come forward," Lerner wrote in a statement to Marine Corps Times. "It's important that federal employees know that the Office of Special Counsel is a place where they can make disclosures of wrongdoing as well as seek help when they have experienced retaliation for blowing the whistle."
In January 2008, the Associated Press published Gayl's report, which claimed that an urgent request for MRAPs in Iraq submitted in 2005 went nowhere because Corps officials wanted to preserve funding for other programs. Nearly a year after Gayl's report became public, the Defense Department Inspector General's Office found that the Marine Corps had abandoned the MRAP request because then Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee decided that fielding up-armored Humvees was the quickest way to protect Marines from roadside bombs.
"From 2007-2014 Gayl endured a reprimand, several suspensions, a criminal investigation, threats of removal for unacceptable performance, removal of duties, partial loss of his security clearance credentials, proposed demotion and salary cutoff, and other forms of harassment," the Government Accountability Project release states. "The turning point came in 2011, when Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner obtained a stay of ongoing retaliation, and the case moved into mediation.
Tom Devine, Gayl's attorney, credited the Office of Special Counsel for the "happy ending" to the whistleblower complaint process by stopping the Marine Corps from putting Gayl on indefinite, unpaid leave and then by leading the mediation efforts.
Marine Corps leadership also had a major role in the outcome, said Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project.
"The current chain of command has been constructive and made the decision to switch from an adversarial to a problem-solving dynamic," Devine told Marine Corps Times. "It was difficult negotiations but they followed through in good faith throughout the process."
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, also commended the decision.
"We are extremely proud to have advocated on Mr. Gayl's behalf over the past seven years and are gratified to see that the Marine Corps and Pentagon have finally recognized his actions, which sped up the delivery of MRAPs and saved thousands of lives," she said in a statement.
Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said the Corps successfully resolved Gayl's complaints through the U.S. Office of Special Counsel's mediation program.
"The Marine Corps does not normally discuss terms of such resolutions," he said.