ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — MSPB Watch founder David Pardo filed a civil complaint in federal district court against the Federal Aviation Administration Jan. 4, alleging the aviation safety agency wrongfully withheld records that would “detail collusive practices by FAA officials to retaliate against a whistleblower, corrupt the legal process, and subvert the rule of law.”

FAA Seal

Did the Federal Aviation Administration illegally suppress whistleblowers?

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), seeks a permanent injunction from the court directing the FAA to disclose all wrongfully withheld records.

Pardo is an attorney who was employed by the FAA until he was terminated in September 2010 after disclosing wrongdoing by FAA officials. Pardo submitted a FOIA request to the FAA on July 27, 2012, seeking records related to an assignment he worked on as an agency attorney that he believes has been “manipulated by FAA officials in the Office of Chief Counsel (“AGC”) and Flight Standards Service (“AFS”) to create a pretext for Plaintiff’s termination.”

The FAA’s Flight Standards Service initially responded to Pardo’s request with a fee estimate of $200 for 6 hours of search time, then an additional $50 for another hour, all of which Pardo agreed to pay. Approximately 10 weeks after receiving Pardo’s request, and after apparently conducting a 7-hour, $250 search, AFS came back largely empty-handed, saying it was “unable to locate any email records” between individuals involved in overseeing the assignment.

However, as noted in Pardo’s administrative appeal, “there seem to be positive indications of overlooked materials. A simple search for [certain key terms] in the inboxes of [named] AFS employees . . . would have yielded any number of a dozen or more responsive emails and attachments. This is corroborated by FOIA documents I have already obtained from non-AFS offices,” Pardo wrote.

A copy of the complaint is available here [PDF].

Follow the litigation, Docket No. 1:13-cv-14, here.

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