Paula Pedene had arrived. One of the VA’s 50-odd top PR flacks, she had 6-figure pay, benefits approximately double that of her private-sector counterparts, and a job that required short hours and little effort. Her principal duty seems to have been noting, on social media and websites, the disease-of-the-month or -day, as designated by various government “awareness” programs. She was comfortable in the 1%, ensconced in a cushy job easier than some people’s retirements.
Until she did the unforgivable: exposed misconduct at the corrupt and debased Phoenix VA.
The USA does not have Siberia, that old Russian tradition of exile to snowy perdition, and a slow death “counting the birches.” But for a “traitor” like Pedene, who committed bureaucrat treason, they have the moral equivalent. David Fahrenthold in the Washington Post reports:
On her 71st workday in the basement, Paula Pedene had something fun to look forward to. She had an errand to run, up on the first floor.
“Today, I get to go get the papers. Exciting!” she said. “I get to go upstairs and, you know, see people.”
The task itself was no thrill: Retrieve the morning’s newspapers and bring them back to the library of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital. The pleasure was in the journey. Down a long, sunlit hallway. Back again, seeing friends in the bustle of the hospital’s main floor.
Then, Pedene got back in the elevator and hit “B.” The day’s big excitement was over. It was 7:40 a.m.
“I will not be able to do this forever,” Pedene said later that day.
Pedene, 56, is the former chief spokeswoman for this VA hospital. Now, she is living in a bureaucrat’s urban legend. After complaining to higher-ups about mismanagement at this hospital, she has been reassigned — indefinitely — to a desk in the basement.
Paula Pedene, Washington Post photo.
Pedene, you see, violated the VA’s version of the First Rule of Fight Club, which is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The VA had many more rules than that: you do not talk about veterans neglected to death. You do not talk about secret waiting lists. You do not talk about managers who scam unearned bonuses by massaging false statistics. You do not talk about lies to the Congress, to the public, to veterans shunted aside to die. You do not talk, period. (Many of the fifty-odd other “spokesmen” have had surprisingly little trouble with these rules. Orwell lives in the spokesmen that do not speak!)
Pedene… Pedene talked. For violating the VA code of Omertà, Pedene gets, not the whacking a Mafiosi gets for violating his version, but a sort of lame, pathetic, good-enough-for-government-work shadow of a punishment: her desk is stuck in the basement and she’s given nothing to do.
Meanwhile, she’s still compensated to the tune of hundreds of thousands a year. Cha-chingg!
However, Paula Pedene is something you otherwise can’t find from the VA scandal
In the Phoenix case, investigators are still trying to determine whether Pedene was punished because of her earlier complaints. If she is, that would make her part of a long, ugly tradition in the federal bureaucracy — workers sent to a cubicle in exile.
In the past, whistleblowers have had their desks moved to break rooms, broom closets and basements. It’s a clever punishment, good-government activists say, that exploits a gray area in the law.
Good-government activists. Lord love a duck. That’s a bit like good-Ebola activists, isn’t it?
As you might might expect, Fahrenthold, writing for the Post, the newspaper read over a leisurely breakfast by the nation’s Leisure Class of idle bureaucrats, sees the whole thing as Too Traumatic for Words, but he bravely tries:
The whole thing can look minor on paper. They moved your office. So what? But the change is designed to afflict the striving soul of a federal worker, with a mix of isolation, idle time and lost prestige.
via For whistleblowers, a bold move can be followed by one to department basement – The Washington Post.
“The striving soul of a federal worker.” Lord love a duck, you really wrote that? Your “layers and layers of editors” actually let you write that?
If your federal worker has a soul, Dave, he’d better spit it out. It’s not his. The time for VA workers to feel some “lost prestige” is long overdue. So far, the VA scandal is months old and the only ones to feel the lash of consequences are the ones who broke the code of Omertà, like Pedene.