A Florida representative is seeking answers about whistleblower complaints from current and former employees of a veterans cemetery in Pinellas County.
Republican U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna said her office has for months received complaints about operations at Bay Pines National Cemetery.
“We have worked to engage the leadership on these issues but have been underwhelmed at the response,” Luna wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “As such, we will indeed work with the oversight departments at the VA — and anywhere else in the federal government — to ensure our veterans get the care they earned and deserve.”
The Times reported this month that Doug Maddox, former director of Bay Pines cemetery, had been permanently transferred to Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell following sexual harrassment claims from female employees earlier this year.
Luna’s office did not confirm whether there is an official congressional investigation into Bay Pines. Her office did not answer whether the representative is looking into other departments of the Bay Pines veterans affairs location.
A spokesperson with the National Cemetery Administration emailed a statement to the Tampa Bay Times late Wednesday. “The V.A. is committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming and harassment-free environment for all veterans, employees and visitors,” it read. “We have been in direct contact with Rep. Luna’s staff and are actively addressing her constituent concerns.”
Two female employees told the Times in July that Maddox created a hostile work environment for them, saying he bullied employees and made demeaning comments about women. One woman said he also made inappropriate comments to widows who were making plans to bury their husbands. She filed a federal complaint in 2022.
Jennifer Jones, 43, filed a complaint with human resources about Maddox in March. The Navy veteran said Maddox’s behavior and the lack of action from the management led to her resignation in July. She said that Maddox being transferred was just a “slap on the wrist.”
During a phone call Wednesday, Jones was happy to hear that Luna is looking into the matter.
Jones said that she’d like to see those who didn’t take action about her complaints held accountable. She said that management disregarded several serious issues, tried to silence employees and “strategically manipulated the system” to protect themselves.
“I spoke out about my resignation because it’s not just about me,” Jones said. “It’s about the next person that works there, it’s about the families that visit and the veterans like myself. Those are the people that need to be taken care of and respected. I’m just a voice for them.”