The Department of Energy says its release of an investigative report on a DOE site office manager known for terrorizing subordinates didn’t out individuals complaining about their boss.
In management comments obtained by Greenwire under the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Science said great care was taken when processing a report that looked into the unnamed manager’s conduct.
The document — signed by Joseph McBrearty, deputy director of field operations for the DOE office — says department lawyers worked diligently to redact the report, making it tough to know who said what about the manager in question.
"The Counsel’s Office reported that the investigative report document had been thoroughly reviewed and that the subsequent redaction was approached in a very conservative manner, taking great care to ensure that it would be difficult to identify individuals," the response says.
The document also adds that "it was the professional opinion of the attorney who conducted the redaction that the redaction process was properly executed and that the redacted Investigative report did not include any inappropriate personnel information."
The management comments came in response to a once-hidden DOE inspector general report — also uncovered by Greenwire via FOIA — that detailed the misbehavior of the site office manager, whose name was redacted in the report. Thought "invincible" by underlings, the manager cursed at employees and opened their private email, among other transgressions (Greenwire, Sept. 4).
The Office of Science "generally" agreed with the IG’s findings but took exception to its characterization of the investigative report’s handling, saying it "incorrectly infers" DOE procedure wasn’t properly followed.
The department watchdog considered those thoughts and made changes to its final report. The IG, however, emphasized that the investigative report’s release to the manager helped create a hostile work environment at the site office.
"Our point all along has been that, despite Science’s efforts to redact the investigative report, and as evidenced by the Manager’s own statement, the release of this sensitive information to the Site Office Manager negatively impacted the work environment at the Site Office," said the IG, according to its own report.
DOE leaders releasing such information to the manager "may have compromised the integrity of the complaint process, placing these witnesses at risk for reprisal and retaliation," concluded the watchdog.
The manager believed the investigative report helped he or she to determine who was complaining at the site office. Despite the redactions, the manager’s copy of the report still had the employees’ names that were interviewed during the investigation.
"I have received the redacted version of the Report and although the areas of [sic] blacked out, I know who the negative comments came from because the style of communicating is something that I am quite familiar with since the same style has been used to communicate directly with me," the manager said in an email.
The manager’s misconduct didn’t result in any punishment from DOE. He or she has since retired, which means management couldn’t take further action.
A DOE spokesman declined to comment for this story, saying the department doesn’t comment on "personnel matters."
The management comments listing their objections to the IG report were not included in DOE’s original response to Greenwire‘s FOIA request. The Office of Science was responsible for the document and determined later to release it under the request.
Nevertheless, the management comments still have not been posted online yet along with its corresponding IG report. An IG spokeswoman said the document will be released soon on the web.
"We are coordinating with the Department regarding the management response. Based on the outcome of our coordination, our plan is to post the management response to our website," spokeswoman Felicia Jones said.
Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.