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Thursday, February 24, 2011

EPA Officials Admit Negligence In Whistleblower Hearing

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Recently retired EPA official, Raymond Spears, Deputy Chief of Staff to three EPA dministrators, and the EPA’s current Director of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Rafael DeLeon, admitted under cross examination in an Merit Systems Protection Board hearing in Alexandria, Virginia this month that they had not reviewed a critical medical document before he terminated Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo after she requested a reasonable accommodation. A medical evaluation supplied by an EPA-hired physician was ignored that showed she had a disability covered under the disability laws, regulations and procedures.

DeLeon first denied Coleman-Adebayo reasonable accommodation based on her medical needs on at least ten different occasions and later proposed her removal from Federal service. During the hearing, Spears, and his mentor, Rafael DeLeon, who was also Ms. Coleman-Adebayo’s first-line supervisor, attempted to shift the blame for their actions to the agency’s Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator (RAC), William Haig.

As the RAC, Haig is responsible for reviewing medical documentation and deciding if an employee has a disability. He claimed that Coleman-Adebayo did not have a disability in spite of medical documentation to the contrary and continued to ignore their own physician's evaluation. DeLeon, who was recently made the director of the OCR also testified that he did not read the pertinent document before deciding to propose Dr. Coleman-Adebayo removal. “Can you imagine such a callous disregard for laws, policies and procedures in order to justify their punitive and harmful actions?” Coleman-Adebayo asked. “These are individuals who are held to the highest ethical standards, yet their involvement in any action against me raises serious conflict of interest questions. Both of these individuals are lawyers and DeLeon was previously in the Office of Civil Rights Law Office defending the agency against employee complaints. This is all unconscionable. How he is now the Director of Civil Rights is beyond my comprehension.”

Spears and DeLeon were both directly involved in Coleman-Adebayo’s first case against the agency in 2001 in which she prevailed with a jury finding that she was discriminated against based on her race, gender, and color, that the agency had harassed and discriminated against her for work she had done to protect individuals from harmful toxins. Her historic legal battle against EPA led Congress to introduce the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century, the No FEAR Act of 2002 (Notification of Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act) (KMB Media Group Media Advisory, Kevin Berends, 413-624-6670)

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