CHICAGO, April 29, 2017 – A Memphis VA Medical Center employee and whistleblower is charging that hospital’s police force with physically assaulting him.
Sean Higgins recently filed a complaint, 346672700-2017-Apr-20-OSC, with the Office of Special Counsel alleging that the Memphis VA Medical Center Police Department that the hospital maintains, has repeatedly used physical force against him.
“Based on actions of Asst. Chief of Police Mr. Terrell Owens, I no longer feel safe at the Memphis VA,” Higgins said in an email to hospital management on April 20, 2017, “Officer Owens has made a concerted effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against me for my protected disclosures. These are the actions of the current Asst. Chief of Police since the beginning of my employment at the Memphis VA.”
Higgins listed five incidents, the first happening in 2010 and the most recent on April 19, 2017.
“In April 19, 2017, I was accosted and verbally assaulted by the action Chief of Police Terrell Owens outside the elevators when Officer Owens approached me in an aggressive manner, pointing his finger in my face and demanding that I lower my voice and then took a posture as if he was going to attack me. This was witnessed by VA employee Bobby Bonds and Mr. Marshall Harris NAGE (National Association of Government Employees) union President.”
In fact, Harris sent a subsequent email in support of Higgins.
“On or about 1540 on April (17) 2017 at room CGW-47 at NAGE union office Acting Chief Terrell Owens acted in an aggressive manner towards a bargaining union member who had just left the Union office after a loud conversation with me.” Harris said in the email. “I told him (Owens) all was fine, which he commented he did not think so, I again stated all was fine. My office door was open as Mr. Owens approached Mr. Higgins at the elevator and began to give him an aggressive dress down in a loud fashion at some point he pointed at Mr. Higgins…Mr. Higgins fears for his safety after this encounter.”
In another incident, Higgins described how Owens attempted to smear him in the hospital:
“In 2010, then acting Chief Owens posted my picture in the police services locker room that I, Sean Higgins, was a threat to the VAMC Memphis.”
Willie Logan, the public affairs officer for the Memphis VA Medical Center, declined to comment, saying it was a personnel issue.
Higgins has blown the whistle on numerous patient safety issues- including helping CDN with stories on improper disposal of bio-hazardous material and leaving paraplegics alone.
The Memphis VA Medical Center has gone through a long and tumultuous period. After the former medical director, C. Diane Knight, was removed in 2016, the hospital went through three temporary medical directors; the hospital has been cited for excessive wait times and has been the subject of numerous local and national investigations.
Sean Higgins issued this statement for publication:
“Since 2010 Officer Terrell Owen has made a concerted effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against me. This goes to show that the VA Memphis management will go to any length to NOT follow regulation and violate the Whistleblower Act. One can only hope the current POTUS his word to fix and hold those accountable for whistleblower retaliation.”