Phoenix VA whistleblower wins top national PR award

Paula Pedene, owner of Pedene Public Relations, was named the Public Relations Society of America’s 2015 Public Relations Professional of the Year.

Pedene was one of the first whistleblowers at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, where she and Dr. Sam Foote reported mismanagement of funds and a hostile work environment to the Office of the Inspector General.

The U.S. Navy veteran said she did what she needed to do to support Foote in exposing unethical practices in the VA wait time scandal.

“It took enormous efforts on the part of many individuals who stood strong, even when it meant standing alone,” she said. “When people ask me what I learned from this experience I can honestly say that God had me where He needed me to be to help our veterans. They are our true heroes and deserve our support.”

She paid a heavy price, getting removed from her public affairs officer role, which she held for 20 years, and spent two years in the basement as a clerk in the VA library. In the end, she won a settlement in her whistleblower case against the VA.

The Public Relations Professional of the Year Award honors the individual who, in the previous year, represented the best in public relations as an outstanding example of the management function that establishes mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on whom its success or failure depends.

She will receive the award at the PRSA 2015 International Conference on Nov. 9 in Atlanta.

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