WASHINGTON, July 20, 2017 – The first shoe has dropped in the evolving scandal surrounding Sean Higgins’ dismissal from the Memphis VA.
Higgins is the frequent whistleblower who has already been fired by the hospital twice, only to get his job back. He was fired a third time last month based on claims of workplace harassment, although he his lawyer and other VA whistleblowers have called this clear whistleblower retaliation.
CDN has learned that a key VA lawyer, Brad Flippin, has been removed from the case.
Flippin, as CDN exclusively reported earlier this month, potentially violated disclosure rules by not providing critical documents to Higgins’ lawyer, Joree Brownlow. It was Brownlow who initial made the complaint.
Brownlow described Flippin’s attitude toward Higgins as hostile, stating “I am concerned that Mr. Flippin is biased and out to reprise against Mr. Higgins and determined to terminate him and not settle any matter. Mr. Flippin has continued to persecute Mr. Higgins and I am finding more and more evidence of this,” she said in the same complaint.
Flippin has been replaced by Keta Barnes as the agency representative on the case, according to an emailed bulletin acquired exclusively by CDN.
Barnes, according to her Linkedin profile, was most recently a District Council with the VA, a position she held since 2015. She’d previously served as an Assistant Attorney General in Tennessee and a Municipal General Sessions Court Judge in Smyrna County, Tennessee.
As CDN has previously reported, Higgins was told he was being terminated on the day the new VA bill was signed. It’s been learned since that not only did VA officials try and fail to covertly get a restraining order against Higgins. The agency also placed a bogus document in his file when that tactic failed.
Higgins said he believed that Flippin was deeply involved in shenanigans. “This was personal,” Higgins said. Higgins also said he believed that Flippin was the driving force behind his two previous termination attempts.
David Shulkin, the Trump administration’s VA Secretary, appears to be investigating the matter, providing a nearly identical response – one suggesting the matter would be investigated – to this reporter and the chief negotiator for Higgins’ union when evidence of corruption in this case was brought to his attention.
Emails to Willie Logan, public affairs officer for the Memphis VA, Sandra Glover, public affairs officer for the Veteran Integrated Services (VISN) 9 Network, and David Dunning, the hospital’s medical director were all left unreturned.