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Air Traffic Controllers Punished As F.A.A. Whistleblowers - (4/10/1997)

WASHINGTON, D.C. Complaining to the Federal Aviation Administration about safety of the flying public and personal abuse in the workplace, as well as fraud and falsification of government documents, resulted in involuntary reassignment to other air traffic control facilities. Mary Anne Addis and Chris Rescio, National Air Traffic Controllers Association members at Scottsdale Tower in Arizona, were abruptly and without justification removed from their stations and ordered to relocate to Deer Valley Tower and Falcon Field Tower, respectively, for an "unspecified amount of time as of March 24." George H. Sullivan, manager of the Phoenix TRACON with supervisory authority, issued the mandate. Addis and Rescio had, for almost a year and a half, tried to bring a string of concerns to the attention of FAA officials. "We followed the proper chain of command, starting with our first level supervisor, then to our air traffic manager, then to hub and Western Pacific Region managers, the administrator's hotline and finally to Congress. Our pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears," they said. On March 21, a mandatory "all hands" meeting for Scottsdale Tower controllers was held. Several FAA managers attended. "We were under the assumption the meeting's purpose was to resolve some of the safety issues raised by us and other controllers. We were incorrect. Instead, Division Manager George Williams reassigned Ms. Addis and me. When asked why, we were told the following: 'to split up the factionsyou were the most vocal(the ones) who threw the last stone,'" Rescio said. "Neither conduct nor performance had any bearing on the reassignments," NATCA Executive Vice President Mike McNally said. "NATCA finds the FAA's action to involuntarily reassign these two employees unethical, immoral, illegal, without merit and, otherwise, totally unacceptable. Ms. Addis and Rescio have been denied due process and intentionally subjected to unwarranted personnel actions without just cause. As a result, NATCA has demanded justifications for reassignments from FAA Director of Air Traffic Services Ron Morgan. "It is unconscionable the FAA is holding air traffic controllers hostage for their efforts to address public safety concerns." Discrimination against whistleblowers and females is nothing new at FAA, according to NATCA. "This sad episode is reminiscent of the debacle created by Gregory May and Rhamptha and the widely criticized sexual harassment physical 'sensitivity' training," McNally said. "By shipping two complainers to other facilities, the agency has sent a very loud message that disclosure of workplace problems will not be tolerated. It will take swift and decisive actions to quell and suppress any employee who dares speak out, whether it's legal or not."

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