Monday, November 14, 1994
Attorneys representing a whistleblower who says he was fired for refusing to ignore serious safety flaws at the Tooele, Utah, chemical weapons incinerator are appealing the U.S. Army's refusal to make public an Inspector General's (IG) report which could confirm the allegations.
Lawyers from the Government Accountability Project (G.A.P), a non-profit whistleblower defense organization which represents Steven Jones, the former plant safety head at Tooele, filed for release of the Army's IG report under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The report documents a Tooele site inspection which occurred in mid-August, one month before Jones was fired.
The Army has refused to release the inspection record claiming that it is an "internal pre-decisional document" which is exempt from public access under FOIA. But G.A.P. attorney Joanne Royce explained, "This is a purely factual inspection report, not a policymaking memo. The only thing sensitive about it is that it may be embarrassing to the Army."
Jones, a decorated inspector with both the U.S. Navy and the Army Material Command, was abruptly terminated on September 13 after he turned down an order to certify that the plant was safe. He had onducted the plant tour for the Army inspectors. "Jones showed the Army IG team the conditions about which he was blowing the whistle," Royce said. "The public has the right to know what they found."
Instead of releasing its Inspector General's report, the Army commissioned a new, internal review after Jones went public with his concerns. "We are witnessing a coverup in progress," charged G.A.P. Policy Director Jeffrey Ruch. "The Army apparently cannot afford to let the truth be told about its nerve gas incineration program.";
"By refusing to release the IG's report, the Army contradicts its own promise to be open with the public," Added Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, which represents communities around sites targeted for incinerators similar to Tooele. "It's no wonder that so many people distrust the Army's claims that incineration is safe."
G.A.P. is also representing Jones in a whistleblower complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Labor which is set for hearing this winter.
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