FAA attorney/blogger says he was fired for not ‘breaking the law’

A 27-year-old attorney in Federal Aviation Administration Chief Counsel David Grizzle’s office says he was fired in retaliation for starting a blog about his refusal “to break the law” in April.

David Pardo, a pilot and 2008 Georgetown Law grad, told The Examiner that he was terminated, slapped with a restraining order barring him from entering any agency facilities, and escorted out of FAA headquarters by security guards on Sept 20 – just two weeks after he began his blog, FAA Lawyer Whistleblower, in frustration when his attempts to alert agency officials about serious safety problems and what he called a “smoking gun email” were rebuffed. An FAA spokesman would only say that Pardo “no longer works for the FAA, and we can’t comment on personnel matters.”

The Project on Government Oversight speculated that blogging was one of the main reasons the 27-year-old attorney, who was employed at FAA for just 11 months, was terminated.

Pardo said that his co-workers at the FAA told him that during a staff meeting held when he was out of the office at a training event, one of his supervisors said he would be banned from the building because of the blog. He also claims that FAA managers took advantage of his vulnerability as new employee.

“How do you ask a probationary employee with limited due process rights to break the law?” he asked. “Doesn’t that turn me into a conduit” for illegal activity? “I went up all the steps in the chain of command, including the inspector general and Office of Special Counsel, but both blew me off,” Pardo said. “At every point, people did not do their job.”

Pardo would not discuss the specifics of his complaint due to “attorney client confidentiality.” But The Examiner has learned that it is related to a May 18 letter sent to Pratt & Whitney from Rebecca MacPherson, assistant chief counsel for regulations, that appears to offer the company tips on how to circumvent FAA’s mandated one-in-seven-days rest period for aircraft maintenance personnel.

After explaining that Pratt is not required to monitor employees’ activities on their one day off, and informing them that “an employee relieved from duty by Pratt may perform other aviation related maintenance,” MacPherson advised the company’s attorney to “use caution…not to create the appearance (Emphasis added) of requiring an employee to work during off hours for another facility that is just a corporate sister…” instead of just telling them not to break the day-of-rest rule.

Do you want to fly in planes maintained by mechanics who might be working seven days a week? Me neither.

Pardo could be dismissed as just another disgruntled employee, but this isn’t the first time FAA managers have been accused of retaliating against employees for speaking up about safety issues, covering up incompetent or even criminal behavior, destroying official documents or misleading members of Congress.

On Sept. 20, Rep. Steve Israel sent a letter to OSC acting special counsel William Reukauf requesting a “full investigation” into allegations made by former FAA inspector Richard Wyeroski,
who told The Examiner he was suspended and later fired from his job eight years ago after reporting two separate runway incursions at Long Island’s Islip Macarthur Airport that threatened the lives of up to 200 passengers. Wyersoki was recently interviewed by CNN’s Allan Chernoff.

On Sept. 16, a U.S. Airways passenger jet and a small cargo plane narrowly avoided a collision over Minneapolis, coming with 50 to 100 feet of each other. The close call is part of a spike in near-misses nationwide that has prompted an FAA review.

A NASA study found that FAA dramatically understated its accident statistics. After surveying 24,000 pilots for a six-year, $11.3 million project on aviation safety, NASA’s National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service only begrudgingly released a heavily redacted report on New Year’s Eve, 2007 that “revealed twice as many bird strikes, runway incursions and in-flight near misses as shown by the FAA’s data,” according to the Associated Press.

NASA originally refused to release the results of the discontinued survey, claiming it could “materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers.”

Wyeroski isn’t surprised. “I was told to reclassify an accident I was investigating at nearby Brookhaven [Airport] down to an ‘incident’ so it wouldn’t show up in the FAA crash statistics Congress would see,” Wyeroski told The Examiner. “The pilot was okay, but the plane was smashed and there was $150,000 damage. That was an accident.”

Even after he was fired, Wyeroski says, FAA officials threatened potential employers in the aviation industry with reprisals if they hired him.

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