Panel Orders Firing of Pentagon Audit Director for Punishing Whistle-Blower
The Merit Systems Protection Board on Thursday ordered the dismissal of the head of the Pentagon’s contract auditing agency for punishing a whistle-blower.
Spokesman Lon Anderson said the board ordered the firing of Charles O. Starrett Jr., director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency since July, 1981, and fined him $1,000 for “taking actions against agency auditor and whistle-blower George Spanton.”
As an auditor for the agency in 1982, Spanton, who is now retired, reported serious alleged pricing improprieties at Pratt & Whitney Co. in Florida. Starrett said he believed the disclosures to be false and the company has repeatedly denied Spanton’s allegations.
‘One of Greatest Days’
Starrett could not be reached for comment. Spanton, told of the action, said, “This is one of the greatest days of my life.”
Jim Turner, a Defense Department spokesman, said the agency did not have an immediate comment.
“This is the first time the board has imposed this penalty,” Anderson said at a news conference, adding that the Defense Department “has to abide by this action” but can appeal to the courts. The fine was the maximum under law.
The board said that two other DCAA employees, Paul Evans, Atlanta regional director, and Arlin Tueller, Atlanta regional audit manager, also were found “to have taken or recommended taking actions” against Spanton.
Possible Further Penalties
Evans and Tueller were ordered demoted to non-supervisory positions and fined $500 each. Anderson said the board is studying possible additional penalties against Evans and Tueller, and is examining the actions of a fourth person involved, James Brown, Starrett’s assistant.
Congress provided significant protection for “whistle-blowers” --often government auditors ferreting out waste and fraud -- in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The agency was given broad authority to investigate violations of civil service laws, rules and regulations.
It found that the three Defense Department employees “committed prohibited personnel practices when they attempted to reassign Spanton to the West Coast because of his whistle-blowing.”
Reached at his home in West Palm Beach, Spanton, 64, said: “I was pushed out because of my tough audit approach and my reluctance to back down.”
Saying he had found “waste and abuse was rampant throughout the Department of Defense,” Spanton said: “It was easier to get rid of me than to clean it up.”