Last week, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the Federal government’s investigative and prosecutorial agency that is meant to operate as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complains, confirmed the allegations of Robert Spahr, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspector, that the FAA had repeatedly ignored his complaints of regular safety violations by coworkers at the Allegheny Flight Standards District Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
These violations included maintenance deficiencies, false entries in aircraft logs, and the operation of aircraft with known mechanical discrepancies. The OSC confirmed seven out of eight of Spahr’s allegations that FSDO managers improperly pursued safety enforcement actions, or failed to take action altogether.
In response to the report, the FAA has already made steps to remedy these shortcomings by revising compliance and enforcement guidelines to incorporate safety risk management principles and to ensure standardization and consistency in enforcement proceedings, as well as promising to provide additional monitoring and training for all appropriate personnel and managers.
The OSC’s confirmation of these allegations, and the FAA’s response, come as a reminder of the important role a robust whistleblower protection agency can play in securing public safety – a sobering reminder considering that President Obama has yet to appoint a successor to Scott Bloch as leader of the OSC since Bloch’s 2008 resignation following egregious ethics violations, leaving the agency without leadership.