A man who says he’s the whistleblower in the string of patient killings at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs alleging that he was wrongfully suspended for sounding the alarm on the suspicious deaths.
Gregory Bee worked as a timekeeper in the patient care services department of the Clarksburg facility from 2015 until April 2019, according to the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of West Virginia.
Bee says he was responsible for updating standard operating procedures in the patient care department and, in August 2018, was instructed by the hospital to amend various policies regarding insulin, including the security, storage and administration of insulin, as well as language concerning hypoglycemia.
On one occasion, Bee was pressed by a nursing supervisor on why the changes were taking so long and, according to the lawsuit, Bee was confused as to why the changes were so important to hospital staff. He says he was the only employee outside of upper management at the facility who knew about the changes.
From July 2017 to June 2018, Reta Mays, a nursing assistant who worked the night shift at the Clarksburg VA hospital, killed at least eight military veterans by injecting them with insulin when it was not prescribed; they would later die of hypoglycemia, according to Mays’ July 14 guilty plea.
Bee learned of the killings soon after he was instructed to make the insulin policy changes, according to the lawsuit. He says he contacted various news outlets, the office of the inspector general and the office of Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., during fall 2018 attempting to alert the public to the deaths.
The hospital denied two requests from Bee to telework during this same period, he says, as he was suffering from anxiety and other workplace stresses. Bee is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, according to the lawsuit.
A “false allegation of sexual harassment” was made against Bee in the fall of 2018, which was later dropped and closed by the Clarksburg VA hospital, the lawsuit reads. A few weeks later, Bee says, he was suspended for seven days for being 15 minutes late for work on one occasion.
It was not until February 2019 that Bee filed a complaint with the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which remains pending, according to the lawsuit.
Robert Bastress III, a Charleston attorney representing Bee in the case, said the most striking detail in the case came in March 2019, when Bee was reassigned to the laundry facility. A supervisor told Bee he was advised to “confine” him to the laundry room, according to the lawsuit.
Mays was removed from patient care at about the same time the insulin policy changes were made. She was transferred to the hospital’s mail room before she was fired in April 2019. Bee alleges that hospital management knew Mays had killed those patients but kept her on salary.
The hospital placed Bee on administrative leave without pay on April 5, 2019, and he has remained on leave since objecting to his transfer to the laundry facility, according to the lawsuit. His position was filled two months later, and Bee alleges that he received “a de facto termination,” as he has not been paid since.
“It’s very telling to me in how they treated Greg as compared to Reta Mays,” Bastress said. “The serial killer is actually treated more favorably than Greg is, and he was the guy trying to shine light on the situation.”
Mays pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder — each charge carrying a life sentence — and one count of assault with intent to commit murder. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Mays killed Robert Edge Sr., Robert Kozul, Archie Edgell, George Shaw, Felix McDermott and Raymond Golden, according to the information. Mays also is responsible for the death of an unnamed veteran and was charged with intending to murder an unnamed patient.
Tony O’Dell, a Charleston attorney representing the families of several victims in civil litigation, said in April that he suspects at least 12 veterans died at Mays’ hands.
Bee is seeking reinstatement to employment, to be back paid wages and compensatory damages, along with several other monetary compensations.
Bastress said the facility failed to protect its patients from the start.
“It’s clear to me now that the upper management at the Clarksburg VA was more concerned about and prioritized protecting their reputation rather than trying to make amends for what happened and protecting future patients and staff from anything like this from ever happening again,” he said.
A Clarksburg VAMC spokesperson said Wednesday, "VA encourages employees to identify problems and will not tolerate any efforts to retaliate against those individuals.
"But identifying as a whistleblower doesn’t automatically give credence to someone’s claims nor does it shield them from accountability when they have failed to uphold VA’s values."
Update: This article has been updated to include comment from Clarksburg VAMC.