Legal Scholars Support Reassigned Climate Scientist

Sep 4, 2017
Originally published on September 4, 2017 7:43 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Back in July, I spoke on the program to a government scientist who told me he was reassigned after speaking out about the dangers of climate change. Joel Clement used to work on policy analysis at the Interior Department. Now he reports to an office that handles accounting issues.

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JOEL CLEMENT: There's been a chill going through the federal workforce for quite some time.

GREENE: Clement has filed a federal whistleblower complaint, and NPR's Carrie Johnson says he's getting support from some legal heavyweights.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Joel Clement is one of about 50 senior executives reassigned by the Interior Department this year. A spokesman at Interior says the moves will help taxpayers and streamline department operations. But Clement told MORNING EDITION, there's another motive behind his demotion.

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CLEMENT: I don't think they were hiding their cards any when they moved the climate adaptation guy to the fossil fuel royalty collection office.

JOHNSON: Clement wants to stay in public service as long as he can. And he's hoping he can return to his old job after an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel. That office looks into whistleblower complaints. It declined comment about any investigation. But Clement is getting a boost from some prominent legal scholars.

JOSHUA GELTZER: We see Mr. Clement's case standing for a broader concern about how civil servants, and in particular, senior civil servants, are being treated by this administration.

JOHNSON: Joshua Geltzer directs the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown. The institute has filed a letter of support for Clement with the Whistleblower Office.

GELTZER: We hope the office will use this as an opportunity to stake out a clear line that moving senior civil servants is part of the plan for them, but moving them based on political views and their expression of those views is simply not acceptable.

JOHNSON: The Interior Department says it doesn't talk about ongoing matters like whistleblower complaints. But it says it looks forward to working with investigators to address any questions they might have. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOREN BEBE TRIO'S "THE PATH TO SOMEWHERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.