The Richmond Register

April 15, 2009

Probe ends in no depot indictments

Bill Robinson

A federal grand jury probe into alleged wrongdoing at the Blue Grass Army Depot’s chemical weapons stockpile has ended with no indictments, according to a depot news release.

The depot and the chemical stockpile, managed by a separate Army command, were recently advised no indictments would be forthcoming, a the news release stated.

Investigators found insufficient evidence to support allegations of criminal misconduct by stockpile employees, according to the release.

The grand jury probe was launched in late 2006 after some former employees accused stockpile managers of failing to follow accepted safety standards, according to a 2007 press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibilities (PEER).

Shortcuts allegedly taken in monitoring the air for potential chemical agent release and in the handling of waste water from stockpile operations were among the allegations. The grand jury looked into whether documents were falsified to hide improper practices, PEER officials said at the time.

Both the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection and the Army inspector general’s office looked into the allegations.

Two “whistle blowers” who said they were wrongfully dismissed from their stockpile jobs after complaining of compromised safety failed to win cases heard by a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge.

The case of one whistle blower, Kim Schafermeyer, a physical scientist at the stockpile, was dismissed after it was rejected on appeal.

Another whistle blower case, filed by Donald VanWinkle, who operated a mobile air monitor at the stockpile, remains under appeal after it was rejected by Administrative Law Judge Thomas F. Phalen.

Both VanWinkle and Schafermeyer were represented by PEER attorneys.

Both Col. Joseph Tirone, who commands the military compound that sits between Richmond, Berea and Waco, and Lt. Col. David Musgrave, directly responsible for the chemical stockpile, said they were gratified the investigation had concluded with no finding of criminal misconduct.

“This result leads to helping allay public concerns over the procedures used to safeguard the chemical weapons stockpile at this installation,” Tirone said.

Musgrave said, “The Army is committed to conducting its chemical weapons storage and disposal operations in as safe and transparent manner as possible consistent with national security considerations.”

“It is reassuring to learn the inquiry resulted in finding no criminal wrongdoing at the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, and I hope the future holds no justification for such investigations to even be initiated,” said Craig Williams, co-chair of the Chemical Destruction Citizen Advisory Board.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.