A former investigator with the special House committee on Benghazi sued committee chairman Trey Gowdy and his staff on Monday, saying they retaliated against him after he took time off to perform military duty.
Bradley Podliska, a major in the Air Force Reserve, was fired June 29. He later went public with allegations that Republicans on the Benghazi committee were focused solely on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and disregarded the actions of other federal agencies related to the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
Podliska's suit also alleges that Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, defamed him by publicly accusing him of mishandling classified information.
Podliska was “singled out because of his military service and because he was unwilling to go along with the hyper-focus on the State Department and Secretary Clinton based upon the fact that his comprehensive, thorough and objective investigation was pointing at other agencies and individuals,” the lawsuit states.
The special House committee was created in May 2014 to investigate the circumstances before, during and after the attacks in Benghazi, which killed four Americans. Gowdy and his fellow Republicans on the panel say the committee has focused on unearthing facts about security lapses leading up the attacks, the military's response during the attacks, and how the Obama administration handled the aftermath. Democrats say the panel has engaged in a political witch hunt designed to damage Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Podliska’s allegations – and the committee's response – show the partisan battles over Benghazi aren't subsiding.
In October, when Podliska took his complaints public, Gowdy said that Podliska's reserve duty was approved twice and that he never complained about an excessive focus on Clinton until he spoke to reporters.
“The record makes it clear not only did he mishandle classified information, he himself was focused on Clinton improperly and was instructed to stop, and that issues with his conduct were noted on the record as far back as April,” Gowdy said then.
Podliska alleges the Benghazi committee's Republican staff members began treating him differently after he returned from about two weeks of military duty in March. After his second military leave in May, he said, top staffers refused to give him work.
In June, he was accused of putting classified information into an unclassified computer system, which he denied. He was fired later that month. Attempts at counseling in August and mediation in September and October failed, prompting the lawsuit.
Podliska’s lawsuit claims a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which guarantees employment protection for members of the armed forces when they are called away from their civilian jobs. He wants his job back, with back pay, and a declaration that Gowdy defamed him.
A spokesman for Gowdy and the Republicans on the committee called the complaints baseless.
“Further, we reiterate that the committee did not and does not discriminate or retaliate based on military service, military status or any other unlawful factor,” said spokesman Jamal Ware. “We look forward to responding to the allegations in due course and in the appropriate forum. And we are confident that once all the facts are known—should this case be permitted to proceed —we will be fully exonerated.”