February 08,2024

Wyden Urges President Biden to Remove Social Security Watchdog

In letter to President Biden, Wyden cites whistleblower retaliation, hostile work environment, and more for why he’s “lost confidence” in Gail Ennis

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., this week urged President Biden to remove Gail Ennis as Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (OIG). Wyden’s call for Ennis’ removal follows a multi-year investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment for whistleblowers, abysmal staff morale, and Ennis’ failure to take full accountability or meaningful action to uphold protections for whistleblowers.

“When Inspector General Ennis appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance as a nominee, she assured me and my colleagues that she would establish a culture that welcomes debate, collaboration, and transparency, which is why I supported her nomination,” Wyden said in the letter. “Unfortunately, over her five-year tenure as Inspector General, those promises appear to have been hollow. Since taking the helm at SSA OIG, her office has gone from one of the highest performing in government, to one in disarray. Under her leadership, SSA OIG has been plagued by complaints of a hostile work environment, retaliatory civil lawsuits filed against fellow employees, abysmal staff morale ratings, and falling productivity.“

Following media reports in May 2022 about instances of whistleblower retaliation and abuse of the civil monetary penalty (CMP) program, Finance Committee majority and minority staff reviewed those concerning allegations, which included meeting with current and former employees and reviewing related documents and materials. Wyden sent a letter in July 2023 demanding answers from Ennis about these allegations related to the performance of the Office of the Inspector General, including Ennis and senior staff members. In response, Ennis denied any responsibility and sought to shift blame to the whistleblowers.

Ennis’ inaction to protect whistleblowers enabled further intimidation and hostility in the office, underscored by a recent lawsuit against two SSA OIG whistleblowers filed by OIG’s chief counsel and lead whistleblower protection officer. Following this lawsuit, Wyden sent a letter to Ennis demanding to know her actions to protect these and other whistleblowers. Ennis failed to provide substantive actions she has taken to ensure the office continues to function and to protect whistleblowers.

A copy of this week’s letter to President Biden is here.