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  • Former Phoenix VA Official Comes Forward, Says Officials Tried To Fire Whistleblower After He Went To Media

    A former Department of Veterans Affairs official in Phoenix has signed a sworn statement testifying of serious retaliation against a whistleblower almost immediately after he appeared in the media.

    In early August, Laurie Butler, who formerly worked as the acting human resources officer, signed an affidavit saying she attended a meeting with Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System director Glen Grippen in January. The day prior, whistleblower Brandon Coleman had appeared on ABC 15 news for an interview on employees illegally accessing medical records and improperly handling suicidal veterans. He also contacted members of Congress, as well as the Office of Special Counsel.

    At the meeting, officials reportedly discussed potential responses. Butler was present at the meeting, and according to her account, Grippen asked if it was possible to terminate Coleman’s employment or “put Coleman on Administrative Absence.”

    VA Regional Counsel Staff Attorney Shelley Cutts then chimed in and mentioned that Coleman could not be removed simply for speaking to the press, as per the Whistleblower Protection Act and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Cutts then added that Coleman could be fired for unrelated misconduct, though Butler did not appear convinced at two of the possible examples cited.

    “Having worked in Employee and Labor Relations for some time, I thought this sounded like a “he said – he said” situation that would need further investigation to substantiate that anything had taken place,” Butler said in the affidavit, referring to allegations that Coleman had prevented another employee from leaving his office by blocking the doorway.

    In February, Butler took sick leave and applied for disability retirement. Several months later, she discovered that Coleman had been placed on administrative absence and still remains on leave.

    VA Secretary Robert McDonald told Coleman in April that he should keep working with Grippen to try for reinstatement, as Grippen was making a “good faith” effort.

    While Coleman thinks that McDonald was not aware of Grippen’s conduct during the meeting, he now believes McDonald should step in and remove Grippen as interim director of the facility for illegally removing him from his job.

    “Director Grippen held a secret meeting and illegally removed me from a job I loved for bringing light to the continued wrongdoings at the phoenix VA,” Brandon Coleman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Grippen ordered me to have a police escort anytime I sought care at the Phoenix VA as a disabled vet. He placed a gag order on me forbidding me to speak to any other Phoenix employees. I feel strongly Grippen should now be terminated for breaking federal law in trying to destroy me for simply telling. The truth.”

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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