A Veterans Affairs hospital opened an investigation against a whistle-blower but then did an about face after inquiries from The Daily Caller.
Greg Chiles is a VA police officer who works at the Fort Harrison, Montana VA Medical Center; he was one of four VA whistle-blowing cops featured in an April article from TheDC, where each described facing systemic corruption and retaliation.
The other three VA police officers featured were: Tim Petoskey of the Seattle VA, John Moline of the Sheridan, Wyoming VA, and Ghassan “Goose” Ghannoum of the Los Angeles VA.
Chiles then followed up with an appearance with this reporter on the radio show Conservative Law & Politics.
On June 7, the privacy officer at the Fort Harrison VA notified Chiles that during this radio appearance he made protected disclosures and was now under investigation.
“I have received a privacy complaint against you for making false public statements about other VA employees in a public forum,” the privacy officer, Kathy Doughty, said to Chiles in an email. “Please let me know your availability next week for an Investigative Interview.”
Chiles was only told that the alleged protected disclosure was made during the show, but he told The Daily Caller that he was not provided with any more specifics than that.
Chiles said his lawyer advised him not to submit to any interviews unless his lawyer was present, and no date had been scheduled.
Chiles also received support from his union, Katherine Haegele, the local union president, who responded to Doughty: “I would also question why an employee is being questioned about actions outside of the facility on his off duty time. Under the constitution employees have the right to Freedom of Speech.”
On June 15, The Daily Caller made inquiries at the Fort Harrison VA and with the VA central office asking if this investigation was a form of retaliation.
Later that evening, the privacy officer sent Chiles another email, calling off the investigation: “I have listened to the radio interview. No protected health information and or protected individually identifiable information was released.” Doughty said in an email from that evening. “I am closing the privacy complaint and do not require your time for an investigative interview.”
Curt Cashour, press secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs, issued this statement: “Per federal law and VA policy, any individual about whom VA is maintaining information can file a complaint with a VA privacy officer and privacy officers are required to investigate these complaints.”
“VA does not tolerate retaliation. Any employee who feels he or she is experiencing retaliation should contact the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.”
While satisfied with the result, Chiles questioned the process. He noted that if he identified someone as suspected of a crime before a full investigation, he, as a police officer, would be reprimanded.