After a five-year legal battle, Secret Service special agent Robert MacQueen has settled his whistleblower case with the federal government, after the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found that the agency retaliated against him for formally complaining about superiors’ alleged misconduct.
MacQueen, a 24-year veteran of the agency, spent more than three years on unpaid leave and had his security clearance revoked, while he fought trumped-up charges that he misused his government vehicle and claimed more overtime pay than he deserved, according to a report in The Washington Free Beacon Monday.
Sean Bigley, MacQueen’s attorney, called the case “groundbreaking,” saying it will give more hope to other federal intelligence and law enforcement officers who had their careers ruined after managers wrongfully revoked their security clearances.
Bigley confirmed to the news outlet that the legal dispute was settled “on terms very favorable” to MacQueen and followed IG report recommendations.
Bigley said the settlement is “substantial and included retroactive promotion, back pay, attorney fees, compensatory damages, reinstatement of his security clearance and full retirement benefits.” He did not provide further details regarding the exact amount of money MacQueen will receive.
“Special Agent MacQueen’s case is a prime example of the work that remains to be done in strengthening whistle-blower protection statutes—especially as they pertain to security clearance matters. Whistle-blowing and leaking are two sides of the same coin,” Bigley said. “If the government wants to stop illegal leaks, it needs to incentivize lawful whistle-blowing by taking steps to ensure the type of retaliation that occurred in Mr. MacQueen’s case doesn’t happen again.”
The DHS inspector general report documenting the retaliation against MacQueen is the latest scandal to disgrace the Secret Service. According to the Free Beacon, “top managers have repeatedly pledged to reform the agency after a string of embarrassing high-profile security lapses and embarrassing personnel practices have captured headlines over the last several years.”
President Donald Trump, in April, named Randolph “Tex” Alles as the director of the Secret Service. He is expected to institute more even-handed policies and impose stricter discipline throughout the agency.
Bigley thanked the DHS inspector general’s office for its “tireless dedication,” and gave Alles and other top managers at the agency credit for appearing to have made efforts to “finally clean house” in their security division in response to the IG report.
MacQueen told the Free Beacon that the Secret Service, after trying to fight his charges of retaliation for more than three years, offered to “fast-track” a false disability retirement for him even though he was able-bodied as a way to resolve the matter.
Leslie Paige, vice president of policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, said the case demonstrates just how opaque and secret the internal workings of federal bureaucracies like the Secret Service are and why they are so confusing to taxpayers.
“This veiled quality is what permits systemic abuses to go on unchecked, often for years,” she said.
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