Today I am writing to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and asking her to remove Mr. Rafael DeLeon, the Director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Last month, Deloitte Consulting issued a report on OCR finding that it is essentially dysfunctional. It fails in its core responsibility of protecting civil rights. Moreover, since Deloitte issued its report I have learned that OCR’s director, Mr. DeLeon, recently made disparaging remarks about two courageous women whistleblowers "pink elephants." One of these women is, Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a board member of the National Whistleblowers Center and founder of the No-FEAR Coalition. Mr. DeLeon singled her out for purporting to be "the Rosa Parks of the EPA" in an EPA conference call last week. It was not enough that Mr. DeLeon fired Dr. Coleman-Adebayo from the EPA. Finally, we received a report of Mr. DeLeon referring to a "lap dance" at a party with EPA employees. This behavior is incompatible with EPA’s civil rights obligations.  Accordingly, I have issued an open letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson calling on her to remove Mr. DeLeon. In the continuation of this blog, you can read NWC’s press release, and the full text of my open letter.

PRESS RELEASE

NWC Calls on EPA to Oust Civil Rights Director

Washington, D.C. April 20, 2011. Today, the National Whistleblowers Center released an open letter to Lisa Jackson the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the racial and sexual discriminatory conduct of the newly appointed director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Rafael DeLeon and calling for his immediate dismissal.

A recent Deloitte Consultant Report found that the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights was essentially dysfunctional. However, the person hired to "fix" the office, Mr. DeLeon, has had numerous complaints filed against him by women. In fact, Mr. DeLeon fired former EPA employee and NWC Board of Director’s Member Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.

The NWC was alerted that during a recent Agency-wide conference call, Mr. DeLeon bragged about actions taken against two senior female civil rights leaders and called the women by the derogatory term "pink elephants." During the same conference call, Mr. DeLeon also attempted to humiliate and destroy the reputation of Dr. Coleman-Adebayo by disparagingly referring to her as "the Rosa Parks of EPA."

Richard Renner, Legal Director of the National Whistleblowers Center called Mr. DeLeon’s denigration of the late Rosa Parks "irreverent and inexcusable" and demonstrates "his utter contempt for the women named and the 9,000 women currently serving in EPA’s labor force."

The letter explains additional improper actions by Mr. DeLeon.

Mr. Renner called for immediate action by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson:

In light of the Deloitte Report and the disclosures here about Mr. DeLeon’s behavior and remarks, you must make a pivotal decision about the direction of EPA’s OCR. We call on you to make a clean break from the past. We call on you to make a decision that visibly rejects discrimination, retaliation, and intimidation. We call on you to bring in fresh air and create an atmosphere where any conscientious employee can raise concerns about waste, fraud, abuse and discrimination. We need your decisive leadership to end the paralysis of silence.

Links:

April 20, 2011 Open Letter to EPA

Deloitte Consultant Report

 


 

Open Letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
“Pinks Elephants” and “Rosa Parks?”

 

April 20, 2011

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson,
 
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under your administration has failed.  As its name suggests, OCR should be at the forefront of eliminating discrimination and advancing civil rights and liberties within the Agency. Instead of taking positive actions to correct the endemic problems, your newly appointed director, Rafael DeLeon, has exemplified a continuation of the old mode of denying that any problems exist and defending management. The recent Deloitte Consultant Report on the civil rights program described OCR as essentially dysfunctional.  Yet, the very man placed in the office to “fix it,” is someone that numerous women have filed complaints against. During a recent MSPB hearing, under oath, Mr. DeLeon stated that he could not “remember” how many complaints had been filed against him. OCR’s dysfunctionality undercuts the ability of EPA employees to seek redress after experiencing discrimination or warning the public about serious violations.  Our communities will ultimately bear the cost. EPA employees are discouraged from raising concerns about toxic waste from the Gulf Oil spill that was dumped in a poor black community. They will have to think twice before complaining about the CHEERS program where EPA partnered with industry to conduct experiments on children. You have sent a clear and unmistakable message that the status quo is firmly in place and anyone who dares to blow the whistleblower or complain about discrimination will find a hostile Office of Civil Rights.  

It has come to our attention that during a recent Agency-wide conference call, Mr. DeLeon bragged about actions taken against two senior female civil rights leaders, calling them “pink elephants.”  As you are no doubt aware, the term “pink elephant” was popularized during the last presidential election. The pink elephant refers to disrespectfully to women who are characterized as pitbulls with lipstick. Mr. DeLeon’s use of this term exhibits a negative stereotyping of women. The term is particularly offensive to minority women who go against stereotyping of both race and gender when they deviate from expectations of submissiveness. If Mr. DeLeon actually said this, the President, Congress and the public have a right to know whether you still associate yourself with this derogatory, demeaning and sexist name calling. We further understand that Mr. DeLeon also denigrated the name of the late Rosa Parks. In an attempt to humiliate and destroy the reputation of NWC Board Member Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Mr. DeLeon referred to her disparagingly  as “the Rosa Parks of EPA.” For admirers of Ms. Parks, this comment is irreverent and inexcusable. These words demonstrate his utter contempt for the women named and the 9,000 women currently serving in EPA’s labor force. If Mr. DeLeon actually made these statements, we must know if he represents you and the Agency?

We have an additional concern that at a recent in-house party at which Mr. DeLeon1 served liquor, it was reported that Mr. DeLeon made an off-color, sexist joke.  A woman accidentally sat in his chair.  He allegedly responded by saying that had he sat down on her, he would probably be accused of  ‘lap dancing.’  A woman had the courage to tell him that she found his comment inappropriate.  Ms. Jackson, the public has a right to know whether Mr. DeLeon still holds your confidence.

In the context of these events, your decision to assign Rafael DeLeon as the Agency point person for No FEAR training is particularly troublesome. We recall that after a jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo in an historic judgment against the EPA, Congress passed the No FEAR Act to increase accountability on matters of civil rights.  Numerous courageous EPA employees suffered for their support of the No FEAR Act.  Patricia Lawson fought for the passage of the No FEAR Act after filing numerous complaints against EPA discrimination. The resulting stress took her life. Your appointment of Mr. Rafael DeLeon to lead No FEAR training raises serious concern about whether EPA is committed to making the reforms required by the Deloitte Report. Your decision to appoint the man who fired Dr. Coleman-Adebayo to lead No FEAR training clearly aligns management with the side of perpetuating the past.

In light of the Deloitte Report and the disclosures here about Mr. DeLeon’s behavior and remarks, you must make a pivotal decision about the direction of EPA’s OCR. We call on you to make a clean break from the past. We call on you to make a decision that visibly rejects discrimination, retaliation, and intimidation. We call on you to bring in fresh air and create an atmosphere where any conscientious employee can raise concerns about waste, fraud, abuse and discrimination. We need your decisive leadership to end the paralysis of silence. 

We ask you to find the moral courage and clarity to remove Mr. Rafael DeLeon from the EPA. If you need more than five (5) business days to respond to our concerns, please let me know when I might expect your response.

Sincerely,

Richard R. Renner
Legal Director
National Whistleblowers Center