WASHINGTON, March 27, 2017 – A VA employee, convicted for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) on three occasions, keeps her job that requires her driving a government vehicle.
Lowe is on paid leave while serving her sentence, said Memphis VA employee and whistleblower Sean Higgins. Called donated leave, it is usually made available for employees who have some sort of unexpected illness.
Higgins said that because she’s been convicted numerous times she would have allegedly been driving a government VA vehicle as part of her job description despite either not having or driving on a restricted license for at least some of that time. Higgins said a first DUI conviction includes a one-year suspension of the driver’s license; a second conviction includes a three-year suspension.
“The employee has been driving a government vehicle for over two years and management is allowing her to keep her job while serving a jail sentence, including receiving donated leave.” Higgins said.
Proir to the recent DUI convictions, in 2011, Lowe was arrested for driving with a suspended license, being cited for reckless driving in that incident. A citation from 2010 shows Lowe being found guilty of careless driving.
Higgins has been terminated twice since he first began working at the Memphis VA in 2007. Both times, a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) judge reversed the decision.The Memphis VA is also on its third temporary boss in less than a year.
The Memphis VA is also on its third temporary boss in less than a year.
Willie Logan, the Public Affairs Officer for the Memphis, being mindful of privacy laws, denied all charges:
“Privacy laws prohibit our speaking to any personal, veteran-specific or employee-specific issue. However, as a Federal agency, we comply with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidelines related to leave administration for Federal employees and follow Vehicle Fleet Management guidelines for operators of government vehicles. In any case where we learn that these guidelines are not being followed, appropriate action is taken.”
But in the last few years, Logan has made a series of dubious statements. In December 2014, she claimed that she didn’t get a bonus that year before being confrontedwith a copy of the bonus; Logan claimed the hospital didn’t retaliate against whistleblowers in August 2014, shortly after terminating Higgins for the second time; and in March 2015, she claimed that a certain bonus didn’t pay any money, only Higgins recalled receiving money when he received the bonus.
Despite assurances that Memphis VA follows all federal guidelines, the hospital has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for improperly disposing of bio-hazardous waste, cited by the Joint Commission for improperly cleaning their dialysis machines, investigated by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for improper bonuses, and by the VA OIG for manipulating veteran wait times.