Watchdog says USGS chief retaliated against whistleblower

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the U.S. Geological Survey violated federal whistleblower-protection laws by reassigning an employee who lodged an official complaint against him, the Interior Department’s inspector general office said Thursday.

After the whistleblower lodged the complaint, Geological Survey chief James F. Reilly told other staffers the employee was “evil” and asked to know about any other whistleblowers so he could move them, the inspector general’s office found in a report.

Interior Department spokesman Nicholas Goodwin disputed the findings, calling the report “wrong in its legal and factual conclusions.” The employee, who was not identified in the report, had asked previously for reassignment and suffered no cut in pay or civil-service grade level, Goodwin said.

Federal law prohibits retaliation against government employees who lodge official complaints of wrongdoing.

President Donald Trump nominated Reilly, a geologist and former astronaut, to lead the Geological Survey in 2018.

House Democratic chairs called for Reilly’s removal.

“Whistleblower retaliation does not get more clear cut than this,” New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and two other Democratic chairs said in a statement.

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