KKC Celebrates Black History Month
February is Black History Month, and Kohn, Kohn, & Colapinto LLP wants to honor and recognize some of our brave whistleblowers this month. Our whistleblowers have challenged powerful institutions while upholding and strengthening our democracy in the face of corruption.
Civil Rights Act and Whistleblowers
In 1871, the Civil Rights Act became codified at 42 U.S.C. §1983. This act granted everyday people and police officers the right to blow the whistle on excessive force toward African Americans. Local and state employees were able to expose fraud and corruption.
During the Civil Rights movement, many people, who we now see as whistleblowers, testified and exposed the breakdown of court systems. The whistleblowers would present their information to a federal jury during these hearings. Even though they did not get monetary rewards for their information. The courts were finally being exposed for their racial and unfair treatment of African Americans and the abuse they faced from white Americans. White Americans spoke out about this unfair treatment and testified about the human rights abuses Black Americans face. The outspokenness of these advocates led to the creation of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Act passed in 1871. The KKK Act was the third in a series of laws to protect civil and political rights of the four million newly freed slaves and eliminate the extreme violence against them.
“All Americans owe gratitude to those who fought for civil rights during the reconstruction period,” whistleblower attorney, expert, and historian Stephen M. Kohn said. “This law brought application preventing state and local governments from breaking constitutional rights, but retaliation against those who exposed wrongdoing was one of the main catalysts defining the legislation.”
Now, men and women of all races can blow the whistle on fraud and corruption. Bunnatine Greenhouse and Toni Savage are two of the many Black women who blew the whistle and made a change in the United States military.
BUNNATINE “BUNNY” GREENHOUSE
Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse was the first Black woman to have held a Senior Executive Service position within the Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”). Her 23-year-long career ended abruptly on August 27, 2005, after she blew the whistle on a $7 billion no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton to repair Iraqi oil fields.
Bunny blew the whistle on two issues: self-dealing by Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) and the duration of the contract. The government was accepting deals from KBR without competition from others and let officials from the company sit in on meetings. Following her testimony, Ms. Greenhouse was quickly retaliated against. She was removed from her position, stripped of her top security clearance, and given poor performance reviews. The Corps refused to recognize her years of achievements. Overnight, she was painted as a bad employee.
It took six years for Ms. Greenhouse to be compensated for the damage she suffered. The Corps agreed to the $970,000 settlement proposed by whistleblower attorney Michael Kohn. This amount included payment for Ms. Greenhouse’s lost wages, compensation for damages, and attorney fees. Ms. Greenhouse retired at age 67 with full benefits.
DR. TONI SAVAGE
Dr. Tommie “Toni” Savage was the first Black woman to head the Huntsville, Alabama, Army Corps of Engineers contracting office. In this position, she observed misconduct within the Corp’s “Ranges Program.” This program was responsible for designing and contracting military training facilities worldwide. Toni blew the whistle on contracting fraud.
An investigation by the auditor’s office proved Toni’s information correct, but the commanders tried to cover it up. As a result, the AR 15-6 (her report) went missing, and Toni began to face major psychological retaliation.
Toni suffered racial harassment and abuse, removal from her position, denial of performance awards, hostility by Huntsville Command, and was subject to harmful gossip. Toni began to suffer from psychological conditions, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, caused by the abuse she endured in the workplace. She filed a lawsuit under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
“She is a courageous trailblazer who set legal precedent benefitting all federal employees and exposed millions in fraud against the taxpayer. She exemplifies public service by holding those who defend our nation accountable. Thank you, Toni Savage, for your sacrifices,” stated her whistleblower attorney Michael Kohn.
These two women blew the whistle on major corruption and misconduct in the military. Their brave actions show how courageous whistleblowers are, and how whistleblowers deserve support from the governments, laws, and programs that guarantee their protection and rights. Kohn, Kohn, & Colapinto LLP wishes to honor and uplift these whistleblowers during Black History Month and every month.
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