After almost two years of interacting with Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, as a whistleblower under duress, a potential client, an advocate, and a fellow lawyer, here’s what I’ve come to learn about him. After this congressional session is over, and regardless whether the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act passes, he should step down from his post.
Here are my reasons, opinions, and observations:
1. He exploits whistleblowers. He sees these them as commodities who possess valuable information or causes of action that benefit him, or worse, as children. They are not worthwhile to him unless they can serve a purpose.
2. He is unresponsive. He does not address issues or concerns that are inconvenient to him.
3. He is manipulative. He presents a nice guy facade but ultimately resorts to threats, guilt-tripping, horse-trading, or other forms of patronage.
4. He does not believe in the rule of law, only what’s “credible” in the court of public opinion. This is unfortunate because trial by media is a fickle, shallow form of advocacy that does nothing to promulgate case law that can help others who do not have his media access.
6. He tries to redefine reality even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence.
7. He engages in historical revisionism and builds politically-motivated, false narratives.
8. He engages in character assassination against colleagues and whistleblowers.
9. He does not tolerate individuals who criticize legislation that he shepherds, and he tries to discredit them for doing so.
11. He believes his judgment and decisions are beyond criticism or reproach.
12. He defends individuals and institutions who have been harmful to whistleblowers’ rights.
13. He downplays, delays, minimizes, or shoots down ideas to advance whistleblowers’ rights unless he can be in control or they are not inconvenient to him.
14. He tries to censor or control whistleblowers’ communications.
15. He engages in unprofessional conduct when he feels threatened by the prospect of a federal whistleblower community that he cannot control or subdue.
16. He does not believe what he says in public.
17. He engages in sloganeering rather than debate and address issues seriously.
18. He is far too concerned with how people express themselves over what they say, thus reinforcing negative stereotypes and prejudices against whistleblowers.
19. He presents whistleblowers as two-dimensional case studies rather than as the complicated, multi-faceted individuals they are. This does little to humanize them and to change public opinion toward them.
20. His imperious and cynical actions betray his idealistic words about transparency, openness, empowering individuals, and accountability.
21. He protects relationships and the status quo at the expense of real progress for whistleblowers’ rights.
I realize this is a harsh indictment but I cannot in good conscience continue to give Devine a pass and keep my mouth shut after everything I’ve witnessed. No one is perfect, certainly not me, but Devine’s conduct goes beyond the pale. There is no indication that he is aware that this behavior is not okay or is willing to change it. Maybe he has gone for a long time in this community without being challenged. Maybe the desire to pass the WPEA and establish a legacy before he retires has distorted his judgment, resulting in an ends-justifying-the-means mode of ethics. Regardless of the reason, our advocacy needs to be in better hands. We deserve better than this.
I stand behind these words 100 percent and would be willing to defend them in a court of law.