Whistle Blowers get no mention in NPCA Letter to Director Williams and Response
From Peace Corps Wiki
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The history of the Congressional debate about the rights and protections for Volunteer whistle blowers, and [[NPCA]] and Peace Corps opposition to these rights and protections, is extensive.
The history of the Congressional debate about the rights and protections for Volunteer whistle blowers, and [[NPCA]] and Peace Corps opposition to these rights and protections, is extensive.
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Revision as of 03:03, 3 February 2011
NPCA-Peace Corps Exchange of Letters Regarding 20/20 Expose: Failure to Mention Murder of Kate Puzey by Peace Corps Staff and History of Opposition of NPCA and Peace Corps to Empowering Volunteer Whistle Blowers
Printed below is an exchange of letters between the National Peace Corps Association and Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. The exchange focuses on only one of the two issues raised in the 20/20 expose of January 14, 2011 – sexual assaults on Volunteers. It fails to mention the other main subject of the expose – the murder of a Volunteer whistle blower, Kate Puzey, by Peace Corps staff against whom she had blown the whistle. Given the scandalous history of the Peace Corps and NPCA opposition to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers, it becomes obvious why neither chose to address this issue.
The history of the Congressional debate about the rights and protections for Volunteer whistle blowers, and NPCA and Peace Corps opposition to these rights and protections, is extensive.
In March of 2007, two years before Kate was murdered, Senator Chris Dodd introduced legislation (S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act) that mandated that the Peace Corps solicit the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis regarding Peace Corps staff and programs. It also mandated that Volunteers be provided whistle blower protections under the Federal Whistle Blower Act. In July of 2007 Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff flew in from Senegal where they were serving as Volunteers – at their our own expense and over the vociferous objections of the Peace Corps – to testify in favor of this legislation before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The first priority in their testimony was the issue of confidentiality and whistle blower protection. The Peace Corps belittled the Dodd bill, opposed it, and with the enthusiastic help of Kevin Quigley, NPCA President, killed it. Then Kate was murdered in March of 2009 precisely because her confidentiality as a whistle blower was blown and she was afforded no protections as a whistle blower. When she blew the whistle on a Peace Corps Benin staff who was raping and sexually assaulting Beninoise students, Kate had pleaded for confidentiality and protections. When the Peace Corps staff blew her cover as the whistle blower--possibly through the staff member's brother, himself the Small Enterprise Development Program Director--the staff member murdered Kate by slitting her throat.
In July of 2009 Ludlam and Hirschoff published a comprehensive plan for reforming the Peace Corps and the second point of the plan focused on Volunteer whistle blowers. Throughout 2008-2009 and into 2010 they pressed the Congress to include Volunteers in pending legislation to amend the Whistle Blower Act. Throughout 2009 they lobbied the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to fund Peace Corps reform, always noting that empowering Volunteer whistle blowers carried with it no cost. The Peace Corps and Quigley pressed only for funding for expansion.
In March of 2010 Ludlam and Hirschoff attempted to secure adoption of an amendment to Senator Dodd’s 2009 Peace Corps legislation to provide for confidentially and protections to Volunteer whistle blowers. Again, the Peace Corps and Quigley opposed the mandates and killed them. So, when it comes to these to these crucial issues for Volunteer whistle blowers, there is no difference between the Bush and Obama Peace Corps. At all times, both the Peace Corps and Quigley have been opposed to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers just as Ludlam and Hirschoff have always pressed for empowering them as their first reform priority.
1st Point: Reform vs. Doubling Irreconcilable
Quigley’s opposition to the Dodd bill is explained in several ways. First, the notion of there was any need for reform the Peace Corps was utterly inconsistent with the NPCA campaign to double the number of Volunteers. So, not a word about reform was said during the More Peace Corps campaign – a conscious policy choice. Not a word about the 30-35% of the Volunteers who are quitting early, a costly and embarrassing scandal. Not a word about the Peace Corps lying about the ET rate. Not a word about the dismal results of the agency’s surveys of the Volunteers regarding agency programs and management. Not a word about the views of the Volunteers who say in these surveys that they support reform over expansion by 2.5 to 1. Not a word that Volunteers in a dozen countries recommended that the program in their country be shuttered. Not a word about the fact that essentially 100% of the applicants who survive the medical selection process are invited to training, so there is no surplus of applicants.
The NPCA’s New York conference to kick off the campaign was focused so that not a word would be said about the pending Dodd Peace Corps reform bill although Ludlam persuaded Bill Josephson to focus on it in his keynote address. Quigley tenaciously pushed the ServiceNation coalition to endorse only an expansion of the Peace Corps, but Ludlam persuaded the group to endorse both expansion and reform. Quigley’s Brookings Policy Brief of September 2008 pushes only for expansion and makes no mention of reform.
What we see here is a maniacal consistency from NPCA in focusing on quantity over quality. Certainly there was no mention of the need to empower Volunteers to respond to the gross mismanagement of the agency and no mention of the high handed treatment of the Volunteers, especially whistle blowers.
2nd Point: Avoid friction with Peace Corps Headquarters
Second, Quigley’s motivation in killing the Dodd reform bill apparently stemmed from his desire to avoid any friction with the Peace Corps, which bitterly resented any mention of reform. The consequence of any such friction was made painfully clear to Quigley in December 2007 when the Peace Corps threatened to cancel its subscription to NPCA’s flagship publication – WorldView – if NPCA did not give the Peace Corps an opportunity to review the articles to make sure that they did not offend the Peace Corps, e.g. did not include articles that criticized management or advocated reform. The Peace Corps had been purchasing copies of the publication to distribute to all of the Volunteers in the field. If it did not subscribe to an issue, the finances for WorldView would immediately collapse and NPCA would need to suspend publication. The article that led to the Peace Corps demand and threat was an article approved to be published by the dozen-year WorldView editor, Dave Arnold, by Ludlam and Hirschoff calling for Peace Corps reform, including protection for Volunteer whistle blowers. So, compromising the editorial independence of WorldView and the independence of NPCA, Quigley deflected the Peace Corps demand by canceling the offending article. The incident confirmed the NPCA as the lapdog of the Peace Corps management and confirmed that NPCA’s highest priority is preserving its financial support from the Peace Corps, not protecting Volunteer whistle blowers like Kate Puzey.
Consequence: Whistle Blowers Pay
The consequences of the joint opposition of the Peace Corps and Quigley to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers is transparently clear. Had the 2007 legislation been enacted over the objections of the Peace Corps and Quigley, Kate Puzey might well be alive today. Their successful opposition to the 2007 Dodd bill protections for whistle blowers proved to be lethal to Kate.
By ignoring Kate’s murder and whistle blower issues in their exchange of letters, the Peace Corps and NPCA imply that there are no policy issues associated with her death. They imply that the incident is explained solely as the deranged actions of a rogue Peace Corps staffer in Benin. But, it was the policy positions of the Peace Corps and NPCA regarding whistle blowers that are just as responsible for her death. With this background it becomes obvious why these the Kate Puzey case and the policy issues associated with it were not addressed in the exchange of letters between NPCA and the Peace Corps. Their joint and scandalous history of opposition to protecting Volunteer whistle blowers makes it essential for them to avoid any discussion of how Peace Corps staff came to murder Kate.
This silence is particularly outrageous given that empowering Volunteer whistle blower is clearly relevant to the issue addressed in the two letters, sexual assaults on Volunteers. There are cases of Peace Corps staff sexually harassing Volunteers. There are cases where Peace Corps staff have been indifferent to threats to Volunteers. And Peace Corps policies towards assault and rape victims have been utterly unprofessional and hurtful to the victims. All of these problems would be more effectively addressed if the confidentiality of Volunteer whistle blowers was protected and they were protected against retaliation. Without these protections, Volunteers are reluctant to speak out and those who do are routinely ignored, harassed, or Administratively Separated . Recent developments make it clear that the Peace Corps opposition to empowering Volunteer whistle blowers continues and is implacable. The 2009 Dodd bill (S. 1382) – as reported form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested that the Peace Corps prepare an assessment of
- (Q) mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding--
- (i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps; and
- (ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including-- (I) staffing decisions; (II) site selection; (III) language training; (IV) country programs; and (V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries;(R) mechanisms for incorporating the views solicited in subparagraph
(Q) into programming and management decisions…
To be sure, Dodd’s 2009 call for a Peace Corps assessment of the whistle blower issues is a trivial gesture compared to the provisions of Dodd’s 2007 bill that mandated that the Peace Corps set up these listening mechanisms and protect Volunteer whistle blowers. But he did demand an assessment. In June of 2010, responding to the Dodd request, the Peace Corps issued its “comprehensive assessment.” Not surprisingly, the assessment fails to mention the concept of whistle blower “confidentiality.” It fails to mention the word “whistle blower” or discuss protection of Volunteer whistle blowers. The adamant refusal of the Peace Corps even to assess protections for Volunteers like Kate Puzey shows the contempt of the Peace Corps to Volunteer whistle blowers. Even when the Chairman of the Peace Corps Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the only RPCV serving in the Senate, requests this assessment, the agency refuses to comply. Needless to say, NPCA has raised no objections to the failure of the Peace Corps to address this issue. Some may wonder why the Peace Corps and its sycophants are so opposed to empowering Volunteers. As Ludlam and Hirschoff explained in their testify in 2007
Section 201 (a) of the 2007 Dodd bill mandates that the Peace Corps consult with Volunteers confidentially before renewing or extending the contract of any manager…Peace Corps personnel should be judged primarily by how well they support Volunteers because Volunteers are the most valuable asset that the Peace Corps has…All of the bill's provisions mandate that the Peace Corps bureaucracy listen to, respect, and empower Volunteers. But only Section 201 (a) tells managers that their tenure depends on how well they do so. Because these reviews might seem to threaten their tenures, Peace Corps managers might not welcome Volunteer participation. Indeed, we believe that Section 201(a) is the provision that the Peace Corps is least likely to implement effectively on its own. That's why enacting this provision into law is so important.
So, the Peace Corps perceived the Dodd bill provisions as a threat to staff prerogatives and even their jobs. When it perceives such a threat, it’s response is predictable: the interests of the staff always trump the mission of the agency or the interests of the Volunteers. The iron law of bureaucracy prevails. Staff fear Volunteer whistle blowers, who are sure to comment on the miserable management of the agency and the high handed way in which they treat Volunteers. Empowering Volunteers cannot be tolerated.
The sheer perversity of the NPCA public policy priorities is confirmed by the fact that it’s second highest priority, after quantity, has been to secure authorization to construct a “commemorative” to the Peace Corps on or near the National Mall – with a budget of up to $7 million. This is largely a monument to Quigley’s ego and that of his Board of Directors. Ludlam helped to kill this immodest and unseemly proposal in the Senate Parks Subcommittee. It is clear that the silence of NPCA and the Peace Corps regarding Volunteer whistle blowers and the murder of Kate Puzey by Peace Corps staff is no oversight. It’s a calculated cover up of the determined opposition of two organizations to Volunteer critics of the Peace Corps. The symbiotic and co-dependent relationship between NPCA and the Peace Corps serves their mutual and overlapping purposes. For NPCA to support Volunteer whistle blowers would offend its financial patron and for it to discuss the issue would expose the joint culpability of NPCA and the Peace Corps in Kate Puzey’s murder. The Peace Corps fears that empowering Volunteers who would jeopardize staff prerogatives and tenure. It may also fear that admitting its hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers might exponentially increase its financial liability in a wrongful death action by Kate’s parents.
The effect of this joint cover is, in effect, to murder Kate a second time and make sure that courageous Volunteer whistle blowers like Kate remain vulnerable and quiet. This is the story of what is not included in these two letters.
NPCA Letter to Director Williams
January 20, 2011 Dear Director Williams, As the nationʼs leading non-profit organization supporting returned Peace Corps volunteers and the Peace Corps community, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) urges you to continue to work with leaders in the volunteer and returned volunteer community to further address the issue of sexual violence against Peace Corps volunteers. The events outlined on the January 14, 2011 ABC News Program 20/20 are tragic and deeply troubling. We know you share these concerns. We are pleased you are reporting progress in implementing reforms; we are also mindful of your acknowledgement that there is more work to be done. As you know, the group First Response Action – consisting of returned Peace Corps volunteers who have been directly affected by sexual violence and other supporters – has offered a Seven Point Plan of Action as one approach to continue moving forward. As we solicit comment from members of the Peace Corps community on their views of this plan, we respectfully request an agency response on specific progress, challenges or concerns related to the items outlined in the plan along with your continuing proactive updating on other Peace Corps plans. We know you share our belief that the best way to acknowledge individual tragedies and honor those who have been so deeply harmed is to continue advancing improvements to training, response and volunteer support on the issue of sexual assault. With this in mind, we support your commitment to keep listening to your volunteers, returned volunteers, outside experts and other government agencies on how to improve both security and support systems. The NPCA offers any support we can to assist in these efforts. Finally, we recognize that while safety and security of volunteers is of paramount concern, meaningful service in the Peace Corps cannot come without some level of risk. It is important for those citizens considering service to be fully aware of the risks involved. It is also important that the nearly 8,700 currently serving volunteers are recognized by our nation for the good work and heroism they demonstrate every day. Sincerely, Jan Guifarro Kevin F. F. Quigley Chair, Board of Directors President
Text from Director Williams Response Letter to NPCA
Director of the Peace Corps Aaron Williams
Ms. Jan M. Guifarro Chair, Board of Directors Mr. Kevin F. F. Quigley President National Peace Corps Association 1900 L Street, NW Suite 404 Washington, DC 20036
Dear Ms. Guifarro and Mr. Quigley:
Thank you for your letter and for providing me with an opportunity to respond to your letter regarding Peace Corps' work in the area of safety and security. The health and safety of our Volunteers is the single most important priority for our agency. We are consistently reviewing and improving our global operations to ensure that we are doing our best to keep our Volunteers healthy, safe, and productive.
We welcome an opportunity to discuss our work and clarify misleading information that was presented regarding Peace Corps' response to and support of victims of Sexual Assault. Over the past two years, we have made considerable progress in our efforts to reduce the incidence of sexual assault and enhance our response to victims as demonstrated by the following achievements:
The Office of Safety and Security assumed responsibility for managing the agency's response to violent crimes against Volunteers in September 2008. The lead security specialist position was created in December 2008 to provide guidance and support to posts and crime victims. Peace Corps' Commitment to Sexual Assault Victims was developed to outline services that a victim of sexual assault would receive from the Peace Corps. These will be rolled out to all staff in February. An Interdepartmental Sexual Assault Working Group (90 perCent RPCVs) was formed to analyze current agency protocols and recommend agency strategies for sexual assault risk reduction and response. All country-level Peace Corps safety and security coordinators were trained in sexual assault and other crime incident response procedures, investigative practices, and victim assistance concepts in August 2010. All Peace Corps safety and security officers completed Department of Justice victim assistance training. The Peace Corps developed a case management database to track ongoing cases to ensure that proper support and follow-up is provided to Volunteer crime victims. All Peace Corps medical officers receive training in the medical/mental health aspects of responding to sexual assaults.
All country directors going overseas are trained in sexual assault response and prevention. The Guidelines for Responding to Rapes and Sexual Assaults, which outlines management, medical, and counseling responses and reporting procedures following a sexual assault for overseas posts, was completed and will be rolled out to posts in February.
The Peace Corps is in the process of developing a state-of-the-art Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program. This program is based on the industry standard called the Spectrum of Prevention and is used by the Department of Defense SAPR program, national and local community- based prevention and response organizations, and colleges and universities across the nation. The model was created by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), the nation's top clearinghouse for sexual violence materials and models. (NSVRC is funded in part by the Department of Justice). The spectrum is a comprehensive model to organize and deliver sexual assault services. The activities in the seven-point action plan you refer to are encompassed in this more comprehensive Spectrum of Prevention model.
We will continue to work with the Volunteer and returned Volunteer community as we implement this model. We have been in regular communication with First Response Action since October of last year. In December, the group was invited to share their testimonies and recommendations with Peace Corps staff members. Both the deputy director and the chief of staff participated in the meeting. We remain in active contact with its members.
We look forward to sharing more of our achievements in the coming months. In the month of April, we will be observing Sexual Assault Awareness month with a variety of awareness raising activities. We invite NPCA to also get the word out to its members about ways they can engage returned Volunteers and Volunteers in observing this month and raising awareness in their own communities.
Aaron S. Williams Director