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Public Papers - 1989 - April

Remarks on Signing the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989

1989-04-10

Well, today I am pleased to sign S. 20, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. We used to think of a whistleblower as some guy in a funny hat running around on a field with a black and white shirt on, always throwing down the flag. But that might well be an apt comparison for the business at hand because whistleblowing is, after all, the one who cries foul to waste, to fraud, and to abuse. And in short, a true whistleblower is a public servant of the highest order. And I share the determination of the Congress that we do everything possible to ensure that these dedicated men and women should not be fired or rebuked or suffer financially for their honesty and good judgment.

This bill will go a long way toward this goal by strengthening the protections and procedural rights available to those Federal employees who report misdeeds and mismanagement. Toward this end, the bill I am signing today is a significant improvement over legislation enacted by the Congress last year. Indeed, the fact that the legislative and executive worked together to eliminate major constitutional flaws in this bill is, indeed, a reflection of our joint commitment to good government.

Through their diligence and hard work, the Attorney General, along with Senator Levin and Congressman Frank Horton and others in the Congress, were successful in clarifying the burden of proof on employees; eliminating independent litigating authority in the Office of Special Counsel; and then, thirdly, retaining current law which provides that the Special Counsel may only be removed for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance. These three issues were at the root of last year's disagreement over this legislation. And I am tremendously pleased that these valid constitutional concerns were addressed in the bill that I am signing here today. As a result, this legislation will enhance the authority of the Office of Special Counsel to protect whistle-blowers and other employees victimized by prohibited personnel practices. Whistleblowers will also now be allowed to take their cases to the Merit System Protection Board.

Let me also reaffirm my confidence in the competence and skill of our senior executive and career managers and supervisors, both civilian and military. And let us remember that most government managers respond promptly and effectively to problems like those disclosed by whistleblowers, even without special provisions of the law.

And finally, this bill is an example of how the Congress and the administration can work together to sharpen and to improve legislation.

For this and many other reasons, I am delighted to now sign S. 20, and I would invite the members of the Congress that are with us today to come forward as I do so. And I appreciate very much you all being here.

Note: The President spoke at 2:05 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. S. 20, approved April 10, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 12.

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