EXCLUSIVE: VA Fires Prominent Whistleblower As Trump Signs Accountability, Whistleblower Protection Bill
The Memphis VA medical center fired whistleblower Sean Higgins Thursday, the day before President Donald Trump signed into law major accountability and whistleblower protection legislation, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
In a letter dated Thursday and received by Higgins on Friday, Memphis VA medical center director David K. Dunning stated that Higgins was being terminated for “disruptive behavior” and “profane language” effective on June 30.
“In reaching this decision, your oral and written replies were carefully considered along with all the evidence developed,” Dunning wrote. “This decision also takes into consideration the aggravating factors considered by the proposing official in determining an appropriate penalty.”
“I have also considered other factors including your years of service, your past work record, the seriousness of the offenses with which you have been charged, and whether there are any mitigating or extenuating circumstances which would justify mitigation of the proposed penalty,” Dunning added. “I have concluded that the sustained charges against you are of such gravity that mitigation of the proposed penalty is not warranted, and that the penalty of removal is appropriate and within the range of reasonableness.”
For disruptive behavior, the VA stated that Higgins caused discomfort when he said they should refer to him as “Mr. Higgins.”
The VA also stated that Higgins made comments in the Equal Employment Opportunity office at the facility that “somebody is going to pay” and that he was “tired of them messing with me.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in May that the VA was initiating action to remove Higgins from the facility 10 days after The Commercial Appeal profiled Higgins and discussed his whistleblowing at the Memphis VA.
Higgins is also known for revealing that the Memphis VA allowed senior interior designer Brittney Lowe to return to work after she sat in jail for 60 days after driving under the influence, marking the third time she’s been convicted of a DUI.
Ironically, one of the major cases VA Secretary David Shulkin has cited to justify passing the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection act was the case of Lowe, which Higgins brought to public light in the first place.
The Memphis VA has already terminated Higgins twice and both times he has been reinstated. He was first terminated in 2008 and in 2014. He successfully regained his job back after arguing discrimination was at play in the first case. For the second firing in 2014, the Merit Systems Protection Board reversed the VA’s action. VA officials had alleged Higgins was acting in a hostile manner.
Higgins intends to file a lawsuit against the VA in response to the letter terminating him from his position.
The Memphis VA declined to discuss the particulars of Higgins’ case, citing privacy laws.
“Privacy laws prohibit our speaking to any personal, employee-specific issue,” Willie Logan, public affairs officers at the Memphis VA, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As a Federal agency, we comply with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidelines related to issues involving the work status of employees.”
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