Not long after, the longtime federal employee was out of a job.
Now, Klym is being recognized as Whistleblower of the Year by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
The “Opees,” as they are known, recognize extraordinary achievement in the cause of open government.
See full coverage of Sunshine Week next week at Watchdog.org.
Award recipients include two citizens, two journalists, one fired government worker and “one small but gutsy Wisconsin newspaper.”
“Now, more than ever, protecting Wisconsin’s traditions of open government depends on the courage and initiative of individuals,” Bill Lueders, council president, said in a statement. “We saw a good deal of that in 2016.”
Klym is one of the key whistleblowers and sources featured in Wisconsin Watchdog’s investigative series, “Deadly Delays.” Klym first reported allegations of misconduct inside the Milwaukee Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. He brought to light long delays of Social Security disability claim decisions in Wisconsin and Michigan ODAR facilities.
Of Klym, the Freedom of Information Council stated:
“This federal employee, a longtime senior legal assistant for the administrative law judges who grant or deny Social Security benefits, blew the whistle on what Watchdog.org, which reported his story, called “incompetence, misconduct and long case delays” at a Milwaukee disability office. Klym was allegedly subjected to additional work assignments, unreasonable deadlines and unjustified suspensions; in August, he was fired. “Absolutely. I am being punished because I am a whistleblower,” he said at the time. Now he’s being honored for it.
Klym is humble about the recognition.
“I was just doing my job,” the 16-year Social Security Administration employee said when contacted Wednesday.
It is the job, the duty, of federal government employees to report waste, fraud, and abuse when they see it. It is also the law that whistleblowers be protected. Several SSA employees who have gone public with allegations of misconduct have not been protected.
Opee Award winners include:
— John Krueger, an Appleton parent who joined with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty in suing the Appleton Area School District for not letting him attend meetings of a committee formed in response to his curricula-related concerns. That case is now being decided by the state Supreme Court.
— Lance Fena, a Milton School District resident, asserted his right to make a video recording at a school board meeting, as the law expressly allows. The board not only backed down after initially adjourning to avoid being filmed, it subsequently began live-streaming its proceedings.
— The New Richmond News won the Media Openness award.
“It took more than three years, but this small newspaper in St. Croix County won its case challenging wholesale records redactions by law enforcement agencies all around the state. A state appeals court in May affirmed that local officials were overreacting to a 2012 federal court ruling in the amount of driver-license related information they have been withholding. Issues remain, but the New Richmond News brought a measure of clarity to what had been chaos,” the council notes.
This is the 11th year that awards have been given.
The winners will be invited to receive their awards at the seventh annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards Dinner in Madison on March 30. The event is presented jointly by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]
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