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Fired scientist resolves whistleblower complaint with feds
by TIM HEARDEN, Capital Press December 7, 2012
YREKA, Calif. - A former U.S. Bureau of Reclamation senior science adviser who claimed he was fired earlier this year for speaking out about the Klamath River dam removal process has apparently resolved his dispute with the government.
Paul Houser and an organization, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, issued a joint statement asserting that the scientist and the agency reached an agreement to their "mutual satisfaction" after mediation by the U.S. Office of Special Council.
The statement didn't disclose details of the settlement, including whether the government paid Houser. Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based PEER, would not provide such details.
"We can't talk about the terms of the settlement," Ruch said, adding that Houser was not rehired by the bureau. "His complaint about the illegality of his termination has been resolved to his satisfaction."
Neither Houser, a George Mason University professor, nor U.S. Department of the Interior spokeswoman Kate Kelly could immediately be reached for comment.
Houser, 41, became a darling of Klamath dam removal opponents and tea party activists after he went public about his February departure from Reclamation, over which he filed federal whistleblower and scientific-integrity complaints.
A former National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist, Houser was hired by the bureau last year to oversee the scientific studies on the Klamath project, which would include the removal of four dams as well as numerous river-restoration efforts.
He told the Capital Press in May that superiors told him his "skills weren't a match for the position" and terminated him after he alleged officials wrote a summary and news release to elicit support for dam removal while downplaying negative remarks from scientists that were in the full reports.
He said superiors ordered him to be quiet about his concerns, then he faced increasing scrutiny on his job.
In a speech to a local group here, he said it appeared top Interior officials had already decided they wanted the dams out and were seeking the science to back up their decision.
Ruch said Houser approached PEER, which represented him through his negotiations with the government. The group defends public employees against what it sees as the political manipulation of science, according to its website.
While Houser's personnel issue was resolved, the scientific integrity issues he raised were outside the jurisdiction of the Office of Special Council, Ruch said. Kelly has said that Houser's complaints are under investigation.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: http://www.peer.org/
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: http://www.usbr.gov/
Paul R. Houser: http://prhouser.com/houser/
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