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Bad performance evaluation latest evidence of reprisal, fired whistle-blower contends

Nov. 11, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Weirick
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The Marine whistle-blower who was fired from his job in September received a poor performance evaluation after his removal — more proof of reprisal, his attorney says, for voicing concerns about senior leaders’ involvement in the legal proceedings stemming from a high-profile scandal.

Maj. James Weirick, a Marine attorney stationed in Quantico, Va., received his most recent fitness report in late October from Col. Donald Riley, the supervisor who ousted him from his post after Weirick wrote a confrontational email to Peter Delorier, a former legal adviser to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos. Dated Oct. 24, the document rates Weirick as average or below average in individual skills, character and leadership competencies, and recommends he not be promoted.

Weirick attracted the attention of Marine leaders this year when he filed a complaint with the Defense Department inspector general alleging Amos and his legal advisers interfered with the prosecution of several Marines connected to the Taliban urination video that surfaced online in 2012. Since then, Weirick has claimed he is the target of reprisal, which is prohibited by federal whistle-blower protection provisions.

Marine Corps Times reviewed copies of Weirick’s three most recent fitness reports — Marines call them fitreps — dating back to early 2012 when Weirick, as the deputy staff judge advocate for Marine Corps Combat Development Command, began work on the urination cases. The most recent stands in contrast to the others, one of which also was written by Riley.

Riley did not respond to a request for comment, but a spokesman for the command said it would be inappropriate to comment on a Marine’s fitness report or medical status due to privacy issues.

However, Riley explained his “do not promote” recommendation in the evaluation’s comments section, saying Weirick had failed to take the Marine Corps’ annual fitness test and complete a semiannual weigh-in, and that he acted improperly by contacting Delorier, a witness in an open inspector general investigation.

“Such contact was not warranted, privileged, or protected & was outside scope of [Weirick’s] duties,” Riley wrote. “This action led to my loss of trust & confidence in [Weirick’s] ability to effectively execute his duties.”

This contrasts dramatically with an evaluation Riley completed for Weirick in 2012. That fitrep grades Weirick at average or above average in individual competencies.

“Smart, aggressive & proficient officer who never needs to be pushed to complete a task,” Riley wrote. “Maturity, legal savvy & sound counsel make him a huge asset.”

Col. Jesse Gruter, who served as Weirick’s supervisor for several months before he too was reassigned when senior officials made a professional responsibility complaint against him, also wrote a glowing evaluation for Weirick. Dated June 13, 2013, that fitrep indicated Gruter’s belief that Weirick was ready for promotion and should be assigned greater responsibility.

“I am confident that [Weirick] will continue to be a tremendous asset to the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps legal community far into the future,” Gruter wrote.

Weirick’s attorney, Jane Siegel, said the disparity proves he is facing reprisal.

Moreover, she said, Riley’s comments are false: Weirick was exempt from taking the physical fitness test and combat fitness test due to injuries, which both of his previous fitreps note.

“At no point during the period that Col. Riley is reporting on, did he ever counsel Maj. Weirick that these were his concerns and here’s how he could fix them,” Siegel said. “Col. Riley never, ever mentioned the email to Delorier until he escorted [Weirick] out of his office.”

Siegel said Weirick will submit a rebuttal to the negative review. He has already been selected for lieutenant colonel, and this report is unlikely to hurt his future promotion chances in the context of his other positive job reviews, she said.

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