Color me gobsmacked at this news. Just as I’d pretty much given up all hope of any form of accountability or reform inside the VA, Sloan Gibson goes and surprises me. As I’m sure you recall, we’ve had plenty of coverage here about the firing of Albany, New York VA Director Linda Weiss for patient abuse and her subsequent reinstatement by a single judge from the Merit Systems Protection Board. (MSPB) Well, I seem to have spoken too soon. She doesn’t have her foot back in the door quite yet, nor her back pay deposited, because the boss is taking a stand and refusing to comply with the MSPB’s order. (Stripes.com)
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson vowed to ignore the order to restore Weiss to her director’s job and to award her back pay.
“We believe today’s untimely decision is unenforceable under the law, and does not entitle Ms. Weiss to return to VA employment,” he said in a statement.
Weiss, who retired while the case was pending, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Joseph’s order comes more than a week after the board issued a statement that the VA’s discipline had been reversed. The statement did not provide an explanation or instructions.
As much as I’m willing to offer a tip of the hat to Gibson here, I’m not getting my hopes up too far just yet. Let’s remember for a moment that the MSPB was created as part of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, along with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Federal Labor Relations Authority. (FLRA) Despite my admiration for Sloan’s good intentions, it’s not clear to me where he has the authority to disregard the board’s ruling under current law. Now, he must have some lawyers on his staff and he may very well know plenty that I don’t, but it seem as if he would need to go through at least some sort of appeals process before just slamming the door on the judge’s decision.
If that’s the case, this probably opens up the door for some sort of lawsuit on the part of Weiss. Even though she technically retired, it’s not hard to picture her eventually getting not only all of her back pay, but some sort of fat settlement for wrongful termination or some such. What compensation will be made available the patients who suffered under her watch doesn’t seem to be under discussion.
But good luck anyway, Mr. Gibson. You’re showing some spine and at least taking one swing for the fences on the side of the good guys. Perhaps I judged you too quickly.