Charges of whistleblower retaliation at McGuire VA Hospital

Published: Nov. 24, 2016 at 1:39 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2016 at 2:08 AM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A high-level manager is paid $94,000 a year and does not work. She hasn't had a meaningful job assignment in almost a year. She says it's punishment for breaking rank.

Lorelei Hudson says it's a gross waste of taxpayers' money. McGuire says it doesn't comment on personnel issues. The army veteran and 23-year federal employee claims she was pressured to hire another top-level manager's husband for a job he wasn't qualified for.

Shinning a light on alleged nepotism has consequences. The Assistant Human Resources Officer says she was stripped of her responsibilities, moved to a different office, and for the past eight months, passing time doing nothing.

"I'm crying. I'm sitting in an office alone. I'm isolated. It's psychological abuse. There has been blatant abuse of authority," said Hudson.

She's still paid $94,000.00 a year but no longer supervises 56 people. That new closet-sized office is not the first place her bosses wanted to banish her.

Hudson provided emails showing they had something worse in mind, but she fought back.

"I was told, 'you're going to the trailers.' That's how angry this person was at the time. Threatening, 'you are never going to do HR work again.'"

The trailers, she says, is like being imprisoned in a dungeon, so Hudson took a leave of absence, reported it to the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that protects whistleblowers, and wrote Senator Tim Kaine when he was campaigning with Hillary Clinton.

NBC12 got a copy of that letter, and in it, she tells Kaine about the reported violation of prohibited personnel practices, the retaliation, and asks for his help and protection. We don't know who did what, but Hudson soon got an email from the Acting Hospital Director saying the trailer space was no longer available.

But when she did return to work, she says, her office door was covered in signs defining what a bad leader is.

"They want me to keep quiet. They wanted me to go along with discriminating against other people. Nepotism - when they wanted to hire a family member or friend - and I cannot do that."

She says Hospital Director John Brandecker was silent during a meeting she claims a hospital leader attacked her verbally for questioning her husband's credentials.

"When it was determined he wasn't qualified, she yelled and screamed at me in front of him. He did absolutely nothing. I left out of that conference room and I was disoriented. That's how bad it was."

Hudson says she became the subject of four internal investigations designed to remove her after she reported a hostile work environment, all with the bullying continuing. She believes employees are scared now to report anything.

"I think it's almost intentional. You see what we're doing to Lorelei."

Just recently, Hudson got an email from the hospital leader who moved her, asking, "What are your accomplishments for the year?" This after eight months of getting paid, but no work assignments - a strategy she believes to get her to quit or be fired.

"This happened to myself and another employee, and he recently left. You don't get any work. It means pretty much you're rejected."

McGuire won't comment, but I also contacted Secretary Robert McDonald with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. His office's response in part says "The department has made it clear that retaliation against whistleblowers is not tolerated at VA."

Hudson hopes the "No Fear" whistleblower protection policy gets backed up with action. If not from the VA, the Office of Special Counsel now investigating her allegations.

"The way I have been treated so badly, I hope that they will prosecute."

Hudson says the manager's husband did not get the job in question, but he is working at McGuire.

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