As if the former top Arlington National Cemetery management wasn’t in enough trouble, it turns out that the Army had warnings of wrongdoings on any occasions over the years, but instead of addressing the problems directly, they chose to remove the whistleblowers from their posts instead. That, coupled with new discoveries regarding headstones and allegations of special arrangements for VIPs could spell big trouble for the ousted cemetery officials.
In 2003, the former budget officer, Rory Smith, repeated tried to report irregularities in the cemetery’s budget. Smith, a 20-year cemetery employee, was promptly reprimanded and suspended for insubordination as he pointed out that between $5 and $20 million dollars were being spent ineffectively as contracts were awarded to computerize the cemetery’s paper-based system but the systems were never implemented.
On April 25, 2008, Ms. Jennifer ‘Gina’ Gray, a cemetery employee hired on April 14, 2008, expressed her concerns about several issues concerning the cemetery, in particular after a family invited several journalists to attend a funeral, but were denied reasonable access by cemetery management. Shortly thereafter, she was issued a series of 12 reprimands from cemetery officials, who soon thereafter fired for “personnel issues”. While an investigation by the Defense Department’s Deputy Inspector General found her to have made a series of four protected disclosures, granting her whistleblower status, but because her supervisors did not have knowledge of the protectied disclosures, they were not related to her firing. However, the investigation discovered that there was complete lack of documentation regarding her apparent lack of performance, and that Ms. Gray was never given a performance improvement plan nor feedback on which she could follow up. As such, the investigation ordered remedy for her.
Besides the mishandling of remains, unmarked plots and missing headstones, cemetery officials apparently also knew that discarded headstones were used for erosion control a nearby riverbed, and management never replaced them. Additionally, the remains of hundreds of Civil War veterans, including black soldiers and freed slaves are still unaccounted for.
Special arrangements are prohibited by both Army regulations and federal law, yet cemetery officials apparently have been reserving choice burial grounds for powerful and well-connected service members. This fact has been confirmed by Army officials and a Gary Tallman, an Army spokesman, agrees this practices is in direct violation of the law.