Thank you to all who have offered endorsements, recommendations, and testimonials. These personal accounts of experience with professional liability exposure can assist in determining your own potential vulnerabilities and needs.
"I was the lucky one – I had professionally liability insurance from FEDS. Here’s my story. I was accused of wrongdoing as part of the GSA "scandal”. At the time I had nearly forty years with the federal government and was the longest serving senior executive in the agency. I had only received outstanding ratings and served as the Acting Administrator of the agency for nearly a year. As for the event that was to create the "scandal”, I only participated in one early planning session, did not attend the conference and had no responsibility for or control over those who made the decisions or handled the contracting and expenditures. A number of individuals from my organization did attend the conference and benefitted from the outstanding training.
The uproar started with an IG report. Mistakes were certainly made; however, the significance of those actions was magnified dramatically by those who were seeking political and personal gain after the issuance of the report. I (along with the other leaders from the participating regions) was put on administrative leave immediately after the IG report became public. I later had the option to retire, but refused, so I was fired. Interestingly, I was fired because of what was disclosed in the IG report. However, when pressed, the IG stated I was never a subject of their investigation.
As you can imagine, this was a very dark period in my life. My family and I were bombarded by the press. I was being accused of things I had not done, by people who knew nothing about me or the situation. Fortunately, I had liability insurance. As part of that, I immediately received the wise counsel of Tony Vergnetti with FEDS. Even better, he led me to the brilliant lawyers at Shaw, Bransford and Roth.
After nearly three years and over $200,000 worth of legal fees, I was vindicated by MSPB – twice. GSA was forced to reinstate me with back pay, benefits and interest and they were obligated to pay my legal fees. From the beginning, I knew GSA had no case. However, the FEDS liability insurance gave me the backing I needed to fight. They also provided the best attorneys, who possessed the determination, dedication, talent and experience that was critical for a successful outcome.
I never could have imagined I would have found myself in such a situation. Like many others, I believed my agency would always have my back. In fact, they did not. As I said, I was the lucky one. Many others involved didn’t have liability insurance and it limited their options to respond to the accusations made against them. I know they all would have preferred to have been in my shoes. As I now tell anyone who will listen, you are a fool if you don’t carry liability insurance.” ~ Paul Prouty, GSA Regional Commissioner, Retired
"Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems. If you are a federal law enforcement official, you have heard this anecdotal expression often enough to know that it contains more than a kernel of truth. In my experience, it is often the most aggressive, most productive and most capable agents who get ground up in the disciplinary machinery of their respective law enforcement agencies. And when that happens, you may be shocked to learn two things: the first is that you are now in an adversarial relationship with the Agency that once embraced you as a member of its family; and second, you may find that your exemplary record of performance and achievement may not count for as much as you think.
When the shock you will invariably experience when confronted with the potential loss of your career subsides, hopefully you will find solace in the fact that at some point in your career you had the foresight to purchase a professional liability policy, which in turn will provide you with the caliber of legal advice necessary to defend against the charges and salvage your career. I have represented hundreds of federal law enforcement officials in my career. The best advice I have given any of them is to purchase a professional liability policy in anticipation of that dark day when they might need it. Unless you are one of those rare ‘no cases, no problems’ agents, you simply cannot afford not to.” ~ Thomas G. Roth, Retired, Law Offices of Thomas G. Roth, Former Federal Prosecutor
"Pay Attention To This – It’s Important. You need to protect yourself. As the elected leader of this organization, I have an obligation to you to address things that could harm you. If you do not have professional liability insurance and you were to be involved in an investigation, charged with misconduct, be the defendant in a work-related lawsuit, or have work-related criminal charges filed against you, NAFV can and will advise you, but we cannot be your legal representative. Attorneys are expensive. Professional liability insurance is cheap, and if you’re a supervisor, your agency will reimburse half of the premium. I am concerned about you because most of you do not have professional liability insurance. I am concerned you will have unexpected legal difficulties and have no protection. I think you need to take care of that – it’s in your best interest. AVMA insurance does not cover adverse personnel action in federal employment. NAFV recommends FEDS Professional Liability Insurance.”
~ Dr. Douglas Fulnechek, President, National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV)
"In the past few years, law enforcement professionals have seen an unprecedented number of lawsuits and investigations resulting from job duties. Don't risk your family's financial future by not protecting yourself with professional liability insurance." ~ Nathan R. Catura, President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA)
"In my nearly 30 years as an attorney in and around the federal employee community, I have seen many employees, including managers and executives, unjustly treated and wrongfully accused of misconduct. Considering this, I cannot imagine any federal employee not having professional liability benefits – especially a supervisor or a worker in law enforcement or homeland security. Federal employees today simply cannot have a career without having someone complain in some fashion at some time. Whether it’s an EEO complaint, an allegation of wrongdoing, whistle blower or other reprisal, or even some complaint from the public, a federal employee’s job and livelihood could be unfairly at risk. A professional liability policy is the best way for federal employees to be able to do their jobs and also sleep well at night, knowing they are protected and can defend themselves if a claim is filed. The staff at FEDS has shown a commitment to federal employees, and I am sure that anyone who purchases professional liability protection with the FEDS association will be well served in the unfortunate event that he or she runs into problems at work. It is a great product, and the people at FEDS truly understand and care about the federal community.” ~ William L. Bransford, Former Managing Partner, Shaw, Bransford & Roth, P.C. (1983-2013) & Former SEA General Counsel (2003-2013)
"Allow me to spend a moment of your time discussing my personal case. If you remember the public spectacle that Congress put on regarding IRS abuse back in 2000, you may remember that several Collection Senior Managers were charged and/or investigated for actions that resulted in alleged Taxpayer Abuse. (Headline News for the Wall Street Journal). After the millions spent in reviewing cases, interviewing taxpayers and employees hidden behind screens, the overall finding was 3 horrible cases where taxpayers accounts were lost in an extremely antiquated set of computer "systems". Although NO abuse or unprofessional behavior was found, (Wall Street Journal, a year or so later, somewhere around page 18), this politically-staged circus ended with procedural changes, and some drastically-needed funding toward improvement of the computer systems. It also created and reinforced protections for taxpayer rights and funded several additional watchdog organizations.
That said, not many people wondered or cared what happened to those Collection managers who were under "investigation". Those dedicated individuals who were negatively impacted by all that went on. (Collateral Damage) After over 30 years with the IRS, 25 of which were in the Collection function, and one of the 13 under investigation, I can truly say the difference in treatment I received as a Senior Manager was "politically" driven. (I guess it was deemed in the "interest of the United States" to be investigated by DOJ). By the time my case was before the Grand Jury, most of my peers had been cleared. There were no cases including my own, of Senior Managers demanding their employees suck the life and last dollar from their taxpayers. It no longer mattered whether I was considered to be taking actions "well within my job duties", but appeared they were looking to provide congress with their token wrongdoer or maybe just for something else. I was never informed of what I was being investigated for or accused of.
Professional Liability Insurance, I did not have it. I thought, as did many of the managers I worked with, that the IRS would cover me as long as I acted within the scope of my employment and direction from my leaders. Thank goodness I did belong to the Professional Managers Association, as they provided me with free initial counseling, and names of attorneys to consider. The agency who directed me in my actions took 10 steps back and basically left me hanging out there on my own…. I was "black listed" and removed from several programs I was involved with, removed from the best qualified list for an Executive Development program, and it cost me thousands of out of pocket dollars to secure representation that I thought I could afford. I was under investigation for 2 ½ years. [Although an outside governmental contractor that wrote an article dismissing the need for PLI and claimed to have "never" known where an employee was denied an attorney during an IG interview, I was denied the right to have an attorney present during my Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) interview, and as a result I refused to sign the waiver of my rights.] I was then given the Miranda warning and ultimately my case went to the Grand Jury. Later the Grand Jury, after interviewing all my direct reports, and a slew of documents (some more than once) dropped the case. It should be noted that the IRS would not give me permission to share those same documents with my attorney. I had to purchase a photocopy machine, and copy and redact all the documentation, on my own time. It took the IRS five months after the closing of the case by the Grand Jury to provide me with a closed without action letter. Note: this was not a Clearance Letter. The IRS attorney who was representing the "Government's interest" said the Service would only provide "clearance" if that was what the Grand Jury determined.
So after this long story, what would have been the difference had I had Professional Liability Insurance? I believe many things would have been different. Those of my peers whose cases closed early had PLI and early attention by Legal Counsel. I learned that having an attorney to advise you of your legal rights and your obligations in the investigative process, the powers of the investigator, whether the investigation could result in criminal charges, and the parameters of the law under which you've been accused are critical to the expediency of the case. As I mentioned I still do not know what I was actually accused of. [Contrary to the outside governmental contractor author who penned the article dismissing the need for PLI], I am also aware of several [other] frontline managers and senior managers who were dead certain they'd done nothing wrong and relied on the agency to support them. Many of them ultimately lost everything - their jobs, and homes (leveraged to pay for their attorneys). One group manager came to me for advice because he was turned into TIGTA for not authorizing an employee to take enforcement action against an "alleged friend". TIGTA "shopped" DOJ attorneys until they found one out of state who would take the case. My first question was DO You Have Professional Liability Insurance? He did not. And by the way, after losing all, his case was later thrown out by the Judge.
Had I had PLI, I would have had counsel earlier in the game and been able to afford an attorney who specialized in these types of cases. And lastly although I survived the ordeal, and eventually paid off my debts with regard to attorney costs, the stress of the process produced ulcers and unnecessary strain on my marriage. Not to say the least of lost credibility on the job. So, now I have become the poster child for PLI and have more than my own story to tell about its need. And not just for Collection managers, but anyone who Manages in a Federal Organization.
I have survived and am a few years from retirement, but the true downside is that I have lost my respect for most of the leadership in the organization and the love and pride in working for the IRS. Even though I feel I have continued to be fully engaged and supported my managers and programs, I have come to consider this a job and not a career. That motivation and confidence was lost." ~ Catherine Lunderville, IRS Manager
"For more than 20 years at the Justice Department, I was involved in the defense of lawsuits brought personally against federal employees. Almost always, the matter involved a public servant conscientiously and in good faith carrying out the legitimate and authorized business of the United States. This did not prevent plaintiffs from personally attacking the federal employee in court for a variety of motives. The suit would put at risk the personal assets, the reputation, and sometimes, the career of the federal worker. Justice Department representation, although normally provided in a civil case, was not guaranteed and no assurance of indemnity was available in the event of a final adverse judgment. The emotional toll that this exposure often took on the federal defendant was an unhappy reality of federal public service.
The possession of personal liability insurance is one way to protect from liability and the cost of defense in both a civil and criminal matter. It goes a long way toward relieving the anxiety of facing that "worst case scenario”; always possible if usually unlikely. FEDS is the best policy available. Its staff also understands the reality of this unique and threatening kind of litigation, and is in the best position to provide meaningful assistance.” ~ John Euler, Esq., Former Deputy Director, Torts Branch, Civil Division, US Department of Justice
"In these increasingly tumultuous and unpredictable times, it is comforting to know that senior executives have a resource like FEDS at their disposal. SEA has performed a review of the professional liability insurance policy offered by FEDS and has concluded that the quality of the claims processing and legal representation provided under the plan meets the highest professional standards that SEA members require. Based on this review, SEA is exclusively endorsing the FEDS policy for its members." ~ Bill Valdez, President, Senior Executives Association
"Anthony Vergnetti defended me against a number of false allegations that were the result of political pressure placed against numerous high ranking officials in the US Forest Service. From the moment of his first phone call, which came promptly on the heels of my first phone call to my then professional liability insurer, Mr. Vergnetti provided excellent and compassionate counsel. He brings extensive knowledge to the administrative arena from a legal perspective, as well as from the position of a teaching professional from whom the administrative law profession seek training. He has a broad view of assistance to his clients, and has generously supported others with advice and counsel during some of the most difficult periods in their professional firefighting careers. Because of his perspective that he was there to protect me, his client, from all sources in a contentious, complicated, and often unreasonable legal/political environment I was reassured, as was my family, friends, and coworkers that we were all in very capable hands.” ~ Pete Soderquist, District Fire Management Officer, USFS (Retired)
"I would like to thank FEDS for supporting NAAUSA and for protecting NAAUSA members with its liability insurance. Just about every day, AUSAs are on the front lines of law enforcement/prosecutorial decisions and defending the United States in civil and criminal matters. Liability insurance provides peace of mind if an AUSA is confronted with a civil complaint or an investigation into alleged allegations of professional misconduct. I recommend that all AUSAs protect themselves with professional liability insurance.” ~ Dennis W. Boyd, Executive Director, National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys (NAAUSA)
"I consider professional liability insurance a must for federal attorneys and other senior officials. In my 22 years with the Navy General Counsel’s Office, I regularly advised my clients to purchase professional liability insurance coverage and had such a policy myself. In my experience, the potential liability senior official’s face is not so much the risk of a Bivens-type judgment, but the extraordinary cost of legal representation to defend civil suits, allegations of misconduct, or unfounded ethics complaints. As an attorney, you have no choice but to protect your professional reputation. Professional liability insurance assures that your personal savings and children’s college funds will not be depleted defending vindictive and baseless allegations. As the Navy’s Assistant General Counsel and as Mobilization Assistant to the Air Force TJAG, I consistently advised my clients to protect their assets and their families’ assets with professional liability insurance coverage. FEDS provides an excellent policy that is tailored to the needs and potential exposure of federal attorneys and other senior officials.” ~ Joseph Lynch, Former Assistant General Counsel, U.S. Navy
"In our litigious society, everyone is in harm’s way. Good tactics can’t protect us from being sued. I recommend that everyone invest in professional liability insurance now; getting it after you’re sued is like putting body armor on a corpse.” ~ Jon Adler, Immediate Past President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA)
"In today’s challenging workplace, Federal managers confront a wide array of decisions requiring split-second responses in a 'do more with less' environment. The purchase of professional liability coverage, as offered by FEDS, can provide those managers with a safety net should their decisions lead to forms of legal review. I recommend any manager with the potential of such review to secure a policy of this type for their financial protection.” ~ Darryl Perkinson, Immediate Past National President, Federal Managers Association
"FWFSA has chosen FEDS as its preferred provider of Professional Liability Protection to its members. This endorsement comes with the recognition of your exemplary support and representation of federal wildland firefighters involved in both the ThirtyMile & Cramer incidents. Your intimate knowledge of the issues facing our federal wildland firefighters as well as the variety of benefits provided under your plan clearly demonstrates your intent to provide federal wildland firefighters and all federal employees with the best possible protection.
We believe the plan provides superior benefits to federal wildland firefighters as compared to the policies currently available on the market. Further, the cost for FEDS is discounted for FWFSA members.” ~ Casey Judd, Business Manager, Federal Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA)
"I served as a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice for 14 years and for the past 11 years, I have headed up a boutique criminal defense law firm in Washington, D.C. Over the years, I have defended dozens of federal officials and employees who have become the subjects or targets of criminal investigations. The vast majority of federal employees I have represented were honest, upstanding, and dedicated civil servants who committed no crime, but rather were the victims of overzealous investigators and prosecutors. Not surprisingly, the first reaction of these clients almost uniformly is: "I can’t believe that this is happening to me.” They find themselves in a situation where their careers, livelihoods, and financial security are in jeopardy. It is frightening.
I have also seen how injecting experienced, knowledgeable and aggressive defense counsel into these situations can make all the difference to these individuals. In many of our cases, we were able to convince prosecutors to decline any type of prosecution or dismiss charges. Moreover, in law, as in any other profession, you generally get what you pay for and the legal costs for the best lawyers is almost prohibitive today.
All federal employees need the protection and the sense of security that a professional liability policy provides. I had such a policy myself when I was a supervisor in the Department of Justice, knowing that I might be the target of someone’s misguided allegations. I have worked with Anthony Vergnetti for a number of years in defending federal employees. He knows and understands what can happen to a federal employee accused of wrongdoing. He and his staff at FEDS are concerned about the individual and want all federal employees to have the protection they need. I encourage all federal employees to protect themselves and invest in a professional liability policy. It is a small price to pay in exchange for the protection and security it can provide you.” ~ David Schertler, Managing Partner, Schertler & Onorato, LLP
"I first heard of Professional Liability Insurance in the early-1980s from several co-workers. As a District Ranger then for the U.S. Forest Service, I was advised to get this insurance; however, I could not justify it, believing instead that I would always be protected by my agency. I continued to hold that belief until 2001 when I was Fire Management Officer for the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. A fatal wild fire changed many lives that year. By this time, I had obtained a Professional Liability policy; however, I still thought I would never use it. Following the various investigations, I was proposed for discipline. Three charges and eight specifications were asserted that shocked me. I began to see my agency in a very different light. My professional liability policy secured me very competent legal representation from Shaw Bransford Veilleux and Roth. At the conclusion of the administrative process, one charge and six specifications could not be supported by the Regional Forester. I credit this in large part to solid legal representation.
Later on I was required to testify in a product liability lawsuit involving Thirtymile Fire and since this litigation did not involve the government, I was not represented by the U.S. Attorney. Once again, my professional liability policy was called upon to provide me personal legal counsel. This was essential due to the United States Attorney’s investigation into the criminal aspects of the Thirtymile Fire.
A few months later I was issued a separate subpoena to testify in a civil case against the U.S. Government resulting from the Thirtymile Fire. Once more, I was provided excellent legal counsel through my liability protection. When the final bill was rung up, my legal fees were well in excess of $50,000.
Given the paradigm shift that has occurred within the U.S. Forest Service to discipline employees involved with fatal fires along with the statute requiring Office of the Inspector General involvement in specific investigations, I strongly recommend all wildland firefighters and managers obtain Professional Liability Benefits from FEDS. I personally know the founder of FEDS, Tony Vergnetti, and he truly cares about federal employees. He demonstrated that many times over to me. Please don’t let another day go by without having Professional Liability protection. It is very affordable and will bring you peace of mind that you cannot otherwise buy.” ~ G. Elton Thomas, USFS Forest Fire Management Officer (Retired)
"FEDS is ready to protect you should one of your decisions lead to a situation where your career or personal assets could be at risk. This does happen - to good managers - and that is why your agency will pay up to half of the premium. CALL FEDS TODAY - it is an important decision you won't regret."
~ Patricia Niehaus, National President, Federal Managers Association (FMA)
"I have been representing federal employees and officials for over 20 years. The past 15 years of my practice has been spent with a focus on defending federal law enforcement officers and employees in various investigations, disciplinary proceedings, and at DOJ’s request in Bivens suits. The work of federal law enforcement took a sharp and marked turn post 9/11 into the realm of our national security. No doubt federal law enforcement activities pre 9/11 were complicated, dangerous, and subject to all forms of scrutiny. The post 9/11 landscape has taken the work and scrutiny of federal law enforcement to a whole new place, making it unlikely anymore to complete a career in law enforcement without having to answer to an allegation of wrongdoing. While the type of allegation may vary from your use of the GOV, loss of a weapon, treatment of a witness or source, information on a travel voucher, to something as serious as your handling of a law enforcement operation, what remains constant is the new post 9/11 level of scrutiny you will be subject to by your agency when the allegation surfaces. I have seen first-hand in my representation of hundreds of law enforcement officials how having experienced, tenacious, and objective legal counsel has saved a career even in cases of what you think is a "minor” matter. Having objective and experienced legal counsel to deal with federal matters is simply cost prohibitive. It’s remarkable to be able to purchase through an insurance policy that kind of protection as well as the protection for payments of personal judgments if you are sued. If you are engaged in any law enforcement or homeland security function, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to gamble your life savings when you can so readily purchase an affordable safety net.” ~ Debra L. Roth on Federal Law Enforcement, Managing Partner, Shaw, Bransford & Roth, P.C.
"During the last 10 years of my career, I have observed or witnessed numerous investigations or reviews on serious accidents or fatalities. We have all watched well-meaning actions with sometimes tragic results in the world of firefighting. While these events are truly tragic and life-changing, the liability and legal aftermath is even more life changing; and with potential criminal, civil or career implications.
The need for PLI is real. Within the last 3 years, I have witnessed many firefighters and managers finding themselves involved in various serious accident or fatality investigations. What is most disturbing is that the majority of the folks involved with these "unplanned, never happen to me events", do not have PLI! The reasons are highly varied and usually center around the concept it will never happen to me or the cost is too high. Unfortunately, I have personally witnessed the stress and anxiety experienced by friends, co-workers and other firefighters who find themselves thrust into this arena without PLI.
Fact: If you are involved with Forest Service serious accident or fatality, a 2009 Chief's Memo has declared that the Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations (LE&I) branch is in charge of the investigation. So, a serious accident or fatality undergoes scrutiny for potential negligence or misconduct, before any other investigation occurs. An unwitting or innocent statement made at that initial time, could actually turn into a violation of your Fifth Amendment Rights.
Fact: A fatality will automatically result in numerous investigations: Forest Service LE&I, FS Serious Accident Investigation Team, OSHA (Fed), and Office of Inspector General (OIG). All are theoretically independent investigations. It gets even more complicated if the event involves multiple agencies -- federal or state.
Fact: The Federal Government has the option of whether or not it will defend you. The Department of Justice (DoJ) may or may not defend you, despite claims of being "within the scope of your duties". And, in some cases, DoJ cannot represent you because it is conducting a parallel investigation possibly against you.
Fact: Most employees do not understand "Kalkines Warnings" or "Garrity Warnings". If these terms mean nothing to you, then they need to! The criminal investigators certainly do. The accident investigators may or may not understand them, or possibly misrepresent their implications.
Rule 1 of self-protection: DO NOT PRACTICE LAW WITHOUT A LICENSE. FEDS has amassed a tremendous skill set in terms of today's litigious world, specifically with regard to wildland firefighting.
PLI is cost effective! With or without reimbursement for 50% of the cost, it is truly a Best Buy. Depending on how you file taxes, it may also be considered tax deductible as well. It is less than 5 to 10 hours of overtime.” ~ Michael J. Dietrich, USFS Forest Fire Management Officer (Retired)
"Just because you did nothing wrong in an accident does not mean you won't have legal problems at great expense connected with it. Once the legal process starts you don't have to be innocent, all you have to do is mis-remember or mis-speak or be human and you can be found guilty of something. Mike (Dietrich) is right about protecting yourselves now. The time to lawyer up is not when the S*** hits the fan and you're a deer in the headlights, but now, when it's inexpensive to get excellent legal representation through professional liability insurance (PLI) from FEDS. Don't put it off!
~ Ab, Wildlandfire.com – They Said
"Why would a federal attorney have a need for professional liability insurance? It’s not like an attorney in private practice who buys insurance to protect against malpractice claims. But malpractice claims are not the only challenge that can be made to an attorney’s rendering of professional services.
For example, there’s the Bar complaint asserting some type of ethical wrongdoing, a process from which government attorneys are not immune. For federal attorneys in regulatory agencies, public and congressional scrutiny is a given. And if you’ve worked in government for at least a few years, you’ve seen that this scrutiny can lead to internal investigations into complaints from the public and congressional inquiries or investigations if the matter gains political interest. Just ask an SEC attorney who works in the post-Maddoff SEC workplace. If you’re a DOJ attorney, then allegations of professional misconduct such as an alleged Brady violation, a failure to disclose a conflict of interest, or a misrepresentation in a pleading are all subject to rigorous investigation by DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
And for AUSA’s, there is the added risk of being sued personally for prosecutorial decisions and by prisoners. Although most personal suits against AUSA’s are routinely dismissed by motion, there are the occasional suits in the post 9/11 theater that present more unique or complicated facts and claims that are not summarily dismissed. And frankly, there is nothing "routine” about an OPR investigation or Bar complaint.
In my 20 years representing federal employees, I have represented many federal attorneys and AUSA’s, all of whom have commented on the peace of mind and satisfaction they experienced by having the objectivity, focus, and clarity of private counsel through one of these processes. The professional liability insurance offered by FEDS essentially offers federal attorneys the benefits that attorneys in private practice obtain from malpractice and general liability insurance policies. For a fraction of what private malpractice insurance costs, FEDS provides legal defense counsel and judgment protection from suits.
If attorneys in private practice carry these protections, and your jobs involve the use of power and authority unique to the federal government, all of which makes you more vulnerable to allegations of ethical or professional misconduct, then you have to ask yourself why you wouldn't protect yourself too.” ~ Debra L. Roth on Federal Attorneys, Managing Partner, Shaw, Bransford & Roth, P.C.
"The legal landscape associated with wildland firefighter may have forever changed after the ThirtyMile Fire tragedy in the Summer of 2001. I know this having represented fire management officials involved in the ThirtyMile, Cramer, and Esperanza tragedies. Federal law passed one year after ThirtyMile now requires the Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General to investigate any fatality of a Forest Service employee due to an entrapment or burnover. An IG investigation means criminal investigators conducting criminal investigations, and has resulted in the brining of criminal charges (involuntary manslaughter and false statements made in federal investigations) against the lower level Forest Service employees involved in ThirtyMile and Cramer fires. Before this law passed, who would have ever thought that you could go to prison for doing your job –fighting fire? It's a whole new set of rules.
At the same time as a federal criminal investigation was ongoing, all Forest Service employees in ThirtyMile and Cramer Fires had to deal with a Forest Service Accident Investigation, an OSHA investigation, and administrative disciplinary proceedings. The legal complexities of being subject to a federal criminal investigation while these other investigations and disciplinary proceedings are also underway is truly remarkable. No one can ever fully prepare for these tragedies, but having professional liability insurance (which meant having legal counsel experienced in the array of federal investigations and proceedings) made a world of difference. It saved my clients from prosecution and then saved their jobs. Having to effectively defend yourself in these various concurrent investigations and disciplinary actions is outright cost prohibitive for any federal employee. Nothing could be more critical to preserving your career, livelihood, freedom from prosecution than knowledgeable, tenacious, and experienced counsel. If you are engaged in wildland firefighting, you have to ask yourself in the post-ThirtyMile legal realm if you are willing to gamble your life savings, your job, and the risk of prosecution, when you can so readily purchase an affordable safety net such as professional liability insurance.” ~ Debra L. Roth on Wildland Firefighters, Managing Partner, Shaw, Bransford & Roth, P.C.
"I served in the federal government for over 41 consecutive years and retired just this past July (2007). Up until the final six months of my career, I had never thought I would be close to needing professional liability insurance. My mindset was: "I’ll never need it, especially when I am so close to retirement and having enjoyed a wonderful, unblemished, long career.” Even though the expense of professional protection was minimal, especially in comparison to the other kinds of personal insurance premiums I was paying, simply stated (due to my upcoming retirement and long-standing record of accomplishments), I felt "bullet proof.” Unfortunately, I was very wrong. I got involved in a work-related scenario wherein I had to spend a small fortune of my own money to hire a world-class Washington D.C. law firm and protect myself. The fees I paid out of my own pocket would have been covered by a quality professional liability insurance policy, if I had one. In retrospect, it was unquestionably dumb to not obtain the kind of coverage offered Federal Employee Defense Services, Inc. when it first became available to me. Furthermore, through personal experience, I can state unequivocally that the people at FEDS have great integrity and they understand the professional liability needs of federal employees. To be sure, I will never be vulnerable and without professional liability protection again." ~ Dennie Lawson, FAA Employee (Retired)
"SEA strongly encourages those whose interests it represents - the federal executive community - to purchase professional liability insurance. SEA exclusively endorses the FEDS policy to its members." ~ Carol Bonosaro, Immediate Past President, Senior Executives Association
"In addition to administrative and criminal actions, there is another area that the FEDS policy protects—that is civil rights liability, otherwise known as Bivens claims. The United States Supreme Court has held that federal employees (and civilians in certain circumstances) can be sued for alleged violations of the United States Constitution. This is the federal counterpart to section 1983 actions against state actors. In most cases, the DOJ or the applicable federal agency will represent their employees in these lawsuits. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
In the past, we have represented agents of the ATF, INS, ICE, FBI, DEA, and EPA in actions where the plaintiffs accused individual agents of violating assorted provisions of the United States Constitution. These lawsuits run the gamut from invasion of privacy to unlawful searches to the unreasonable use of force to violations of religious freedom under the First Amendment. In suits where a federal employee is not afforded a government lawyer, the FEDS policy will provide representation by counsel familiar with this type of litigation for covered claims. Civil rights litigation is significantly different from many other areas of the law and, due to its unique characteristics, federal employees are well served retaining a lawyer who knows how to defend these cases. In the event a federal employee finds himself or herself without government representation, FEDS will assign the case to a knowledgeable lawyer who will aggressively defend the employee. Moreover, as noted above, legal costs are increasing along with other areas of the economy. It is an unfortunate truth that many individuals cannot afford to retain the caliber of attorney necessary to defend these types of cases. We wholeheartedly agree that the people at FEDS fully understands the devastating financial effect that these lawsuits can have in the everyday lives of federal employees. We join in the other testimonials and encourage all federal employees to invest in a professional liability policy so that they can relax in the knowledge that they are protected should they find themselves a defendant in a civil rights action.” ~ Marvin C. Moos & A. David Carlson, Partners, Ebanks, Smith & Carlson, L.L.P.
"I first learned of professional liability insurance coverage at a retirement seminar I attended in 1997. The recommendation was that anyone who was a supervisor should obtain coverage to protect their assets and retirement from lawsuits brought against you personally, so I bought my first coverage that year and kept it up until my retirement from the U.S. Forest Service in March 2007. I had always been very confident of my professional skills and was quite sure that my agency would defend me if there ever was a situation that resulted in me being personally named in a legal action. The thought of disciplinary action against me never crossed my mind. However, as I observed my agency respond to such tragedies as the Thirtymile and Cramer Fires, I quickly learned differently. When my agency investigated these fires and other similar accidents, my opinion was that the focus was to assess blame and hold employees accountability in order to protect the perceived integrity and reputation of the organization and its upper management, as well as to appease outside stakeholders such as the media and Congress. In these situations, you, as a federal employee, may find that you are completely on your own to protect your professional and personal livelihood. Such a situation did happen to me personally and if it were not for outstanding legal representation provided by my professional liability provider, I am not so sure the results would have been as positive as it was in the end. In today's murky legal environment, a government employee, supervisor or not, absolutely should maintain outside professional liability coverage.” ~ Rick Hafenfeld, USFS Regional Aviation Officer (Region 1), (Retired)
"Anyone involved in law enforcement knows the risks they face when they investigate cases. You are trained to recognize certain situations and through your training and experience, you are usually prepared to deal with the threat(s). The one thing you don’t get much training in are civil matters. These range from matters where you believe you are acting in good faith, to claims against supervisors by their subordinates. Investigators must meet an element of proof before they can charge someone. Regardless of how frivolous the claim may be, it takes virtually no proof to file a lawsuit against a government official.
In most cases, your agency will represent you if you were acting within the scope of your duties. However, there are times when your actions fall in those "grey areas" where you are left wondering if you are going to have to pay your own legal expenses. The possibility of mortgaging your home, or having a lien placed on your assets by an overzealous plaintiff are troubling thoughts.
In my opinion, agents and investigators should strongly consider professional liability insurance, regardless of your rank. The staff at FEDS understand the issues faced by law enforcement professionals so they are well suited to design a policy to fit your needs.”~ Michael R. Bouchard, Assistant Director, ATF (Retired)
"Here’s a 19th Watch-out Situation for firefighters: Beware of criminal, civil, and administrative liability when something goes wrong on one of your fires, even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. You can cooperate with your agency and protect yourself at the same time, but you need legal advice to accomplish these dual and sometimes conflicting goals. The fire investigation process has become a thicket of thorns, as the testimonials on this website will tell you in vivid detail. If you have professional liability insurance, keep it. If you don’t have it, get it.” ~ John N. Maclean, Award-Winning Author
"I served as a senior executive with the FAA for 24 of my 33 years of public service and strongly recommend that all supervisors, managers and senior executives have the FEDS Professional Liability insurance as their trusted partner. Public service is a wonderful experience, but having FEDS Professional Liability insurance as a partner is critical. Leadership requires risk taking and making difficult decisions that often create controversy and conflict that can adversely affect your successful career. Employees make false accusations for many reasons that often take months or years to investigate and adjudicate. It is a lonely journey to resolution even if all the allegations are unfounded.
I found FEDS Professional Liability insurance to be an outstanding value. The small annual premium is one of the best insurance protection plans I have ever purchased. FEDS Professional Liability insurance is backed by the outstanding professionals of the Shaw, Bransford & Roth, P.C. law firm. They provided me tremendous personal support for nearly 20 years. Most recently, Ms. Debra Roth and Ms. Julia Perkins were of outstanding assistance during a security investigation. They were always responsive, responsible, earnest and pro-active professionals in every regard.
Leadership is lonely. Your interests will not always coincide with your agencies. A smart public servant has professional insurance. In my opinion, you won’t do better than FEDS Professional Liability insurance as your trusted partner.” ~ Tom Accardi, FAA, Director of Aviation System Standards (Retired)
"You already know that FLEOA’s legal assistance and representation are only a phone call away. What you might not know is that you also need the protection of a professional liability policy. FLEOA worked with the DOJ and other associations to get the legislation passed so your agency would pay for half the premium – because you need it – for civil suits aka Bivens actions, as well as potential criminal investigation. I recommend FEDS for every FLEOA member.” ~ Lawrence Berger, Esq., FLEOA General Counsel
"As Executive Director of IDRA, I am committed to bringing all Department of the Interior employees the very best products in continuum with IDRA's mission. Because professional liability insurance coverage is so important to the financial well-being of our employees, I have carefully sought out and selected the FEDS product due, in part, to its committment to serve federal employees and first-hand knowledge about the exposures facing Interior Department employees.
We believe the FEDS professional liability program is superior to all others and have switched our endorsement from another company because of it. We have encouraged all of our members to do the same, as we believe there is no better program or value out there." ~ Nadine Wright, Executive Director, Interior Department Recreation Association (IDRA)
"On behalf of the Board of Directors of PMA and our nationwide members, I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with PMA’s endorsement of your new professional liability product. This endorsement comes with the recognition that a number of our members have been represented by you and because of your intimate knowledge with the IRS were successful in your representation. Your knowledge of the issues facing IRS managers has been proven time and time again, and that coupled with the benefits gives my members piece of mind.
We are pleased to partner with you to help protect our members from the unpleasantness of section 1203 and 1204 as well as the vagaries of unsubstantiated misconduct charges. We always are looking for ways to provide good, solid benefits for our members at a cost commensurate with the value received. This is one such benefit.
Again, thank you for joining as a partner with PMA and providing an outstanding product, at a very competitive price, in the area of liability insurance. I firmly believe this is an excellent value compared to other offerings and that your knowledge of civil service law makes the decision to purchase liability insurance very easy.” ~ Thomas Burger, Executive Director, Professional Managers Association (PMA)
"WIFLE believes that no federal law enforcement officer should be without liability insurance. The FEDS policy gives those in law enforcement the protection they need to do their jobs.” ~ Margie Moore, Immediate Past Executive Director, Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE)
"I have documented abuse of authority by the government against national security whistleblowers. In today's world, being a member of a law enforcement union or association is not enough. There is only so much that they can do, and so much I've been able to do as an advocate. Personal liability insurance is extra protection, like an added trauma (or ceramic) plate in your body armor. When you least expect to need it, FEDS will be there and you'll be glad you have them on your side. It's why I am personally staking my name behind Tony Vergnetti and FEDS.” ~ Andy Ramirez, Defender of the Border Patrol, President of the Law Enforcement Advocates Council (LEOAC)