How were the top DHS positions filled? It was Ruling Class cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism. And in a few isolated cases, it may have been some affirmative action.
In the case of Carmen H. Walker, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, it may have been a combination of all four, because she certainly was not qualified to render the decisions that she made. The most egregious was in the Case of Cadet Webster Smith.
It took a long time for the Dept Homeland Security, Office of Civil Rights to make a decision on the Webster Smith Discrimination Complaint. Webster Smith received a fatal blow from Ms Carmen Walker, the Deputy Officer for EEO Programs in the Department of Homeland Security. That decision was the death knell for Cadet Smith in his fight to get justice from the Coast Guard Academy and the Coast Guard?
Carmen H. Walker, Deputy Officer for EEO Programs, Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, in her 20 August 2007 letter said that because Webster Smith was court-martialed, he could not have been discriminated against, as a matter of law. Well, that was just flat out patently wrong. A court-martial does not bar a civil rights action. The court-martial was just one act in a chain of events, each of which constituted racial discrimination. The same set of facts could have given rise to actionable relief in different arenas. The several discriminatory actions taken against Webster Smith before he was even charged under the UCMJ were completely separate and distinct from any possible legal errors that were committed during the course of the court-martial.
Only the legal and procedural errors committed by the prosecution at trial were the subject of the appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. The decision by Ms Walker was the dumbest decision I had ever seen, and the shortest. There was more meat on the shadow of the chicken that died of starvation than in her Report. There were no Findings of Fact. There were no Conclusions. There was no Rationale, or any reasoning whatsoever. There was nothing in the Final Report to show how she had arrived at her decision. No comparisons are made with any other cases or sets of facts.The Report and her decision simply defied reason and logic.
H. Jerry Jones, the Coast Guard’s director of the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., authorized an inquiry Dec. 7, 2006 into whether former cadet first class Webster Smith was treated differently during the investigation into his case than others who had committed similar offenses.
After reviewing Smith’s complaint, Jones dismissed 16 separate claims but authorized an investigation into the alleged inequity of treatment, headquarters spokesman Commander Jeff Carter said Dec. 15.
The Coast Guard hired JDG Associates Inc., a San Antonio-based consultant company that specializes in equal opportunity and civil rights issues, to examine the complaint, Carter said.
Carter explained that the Coast Guard does not maintain a large Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff and needed to hire the firm to ensure fairness.
Consistent with 29CFR 1614.107(b) when an agency dismisses some but not all of the claims in a complaint, the dismissed claims will not be investigated and the dismissal is not immediately appealable. The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to review them together with the Report of Investigation when it prepared the Final Agency Decision (FAD) on the accepted claims. It does not appear that Ms Walker did anything remotely comparable to that. She did not appear to have followed the letter or the spirit of the Regulation, 29CFR 1614.107(b).
Webster Smith has the right to request reconsideration of the FAD, including the dismissal determination if it had been sustained. It appears that Ms. Walker did that by default. Even though the dismissed claims were not processed as discreet and separate claims, the information regarding the dismissed claims were required to be used as evidence during the investigation of the accepted claim. Ms. Walker certainly could not have done that.
However, it is hard to tell just what Ms Walker did, if anything. She gave very few clues as to what she did, if she did anything. She could have flipped a coin, or rolled the dice for all we know. The FAD is brief and uninformative. It gives very little insight into the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of her mind.
Ms Carmen Walker was faced with a living room full of pink elephants. She chose to ignore all of them. She ignored what would have been obvious to even a child, and instead she grasped at two invisible straws. She chose to hang her hat on a technicality that has proven to be a gross embarrassment to her and the Department of Homeland Security.
It looked like Ms Walker had not looked at the complaint since it first had arrived on her desk. She must have noticed that the First Anniversary of the filing of the complaint was fast approaching. On 5 September, it would have been one year since the complaint had been filed. Ms Walker was required by Agency Regulations to provide Webster Smith with a copy of the investigative file, to notify him in writing that he had a right to request a hearing and a decision from an administrative law judge (ALJ) or to request an immediate final decision from the agency (29 CFR 1614.110). Ms Walker’s Final Decision looked like nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to avoid letting the 360 day period run out without taking the required Agency action.
Oscar Wilde said that the easiest way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Ms Walker obviously believed the easiest way to get rid of a complaint was to simply say that it did not state a claim for which relief could be granted.
In her decision no evidence was evaluated. Statements were taken by the Investigating Officer, but no Facts were deduced. There were two apparently implied facts: One, that Webster Smith had been in the military; and, Two, that he had been court-martialed. From those two apparently implied facts, Ms Walker concludes that Webster Smith’s Discrimination Complaint failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.
If Webster Smith had been trying to overturn his court-martial conviction by filing a civil rights complaint, then he would not have filed an appeal to the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. That is a separate action. It is designed to remedy the errors committed during and after the court-martial conviction.
The Court of Criminal Appeals has no jurisdiction to render a finding concerning whether Webster Smith was discriminated against when he was forcefully removed from Chase Hall at midnight in December 2005 by Coast Guard Intelligence, or when he was prevented from attending class, or when he was made to work on the boat docks in June 2006, or when he was forbidden to speak to any other classmates or cadets, or when he was forbidden to go within 100 yards of Chase Hall. Moreover, it was discrimination when a press release was distributed to the media with his photograph calling him a sexual predator and saying that his presence created an intimidating environment in Chase Hall. All of these prohibited actions occurred long before a charge sheet was drawn up, and well before a court-martial was convened and most certainly before a verdict was rendered. On these acts alone Webster Smith was discriminated against because of his race. These all occurred long before the court-martial and the other related acts occurred.
The Court of Military Review is a military forum and can only give a military remedy. It has no jurisdiction to give relief in the administrative, employment area. The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, established under Article 66, UCMJ, by the Judge Advocate General is composed of the Chief Judge and not less than two additional appellate military judges. The judges may be commissioned officers or civilians. The Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals is currently composed of six appellate judges organized in panels of three for consideration of referred cases. All but the Chief Judge have other primary duties, so that their service on the Court constitutes a collateral duty. In general, the Court reviews and acts on the records by affirming, reversing, or modifying in part the findings or sentence in each case of trial by court-martial in which the sentence, as approved, extends to death; dismissal of a commissioned officer or cadet; dishonorable discharge; bad conduct discharge; or confinement of one year or more. The Court also reviews other courts-martial with lesser sentences if the Judge Advocate General so directs. Also reviewed by the Court are petitions for extraordinary writs, petitions for new trial which have been referred to the Court, and appeals by the United States under Article 62, UCMJ.
That is why there is a civil rights complaint procedure. It is designed to address those areas where one has been treated differently than others based on his race, or sex.
In a perfect world, Ms Carmen H. Walker’s actions alone would have done irreparable harm to an innocent man, but this is not a perfect world; and, Ms Walker may have had her strings pulled by others. Her actions and decisions had a snowball effect.
The Day newspaper in an article written by Jennifer Grogan on 9/11/2007 reported that “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ruled that Webster Smith was not discriminated against on the basis of his race when he was court-martialed for sexual assault last summer.” That was not true, nor was it correct.
She reported that “The Smiths declined to comment.” That was true; however, after the Smiths saw what she had written, they had plenty of comments. Mainly, they commented that Ms Grogan’s article was not correct. And they were right. The Day was forced to print a correction on 9/12/2207. As one might expect, the CORRECTION was not as conspicuous, nor as easy to locate as the first blatantly erroneous article. The damage had been done. As Webster Smith’s mother, Belinda, said”After the article has gone nationwide with the Associated Press, they quietly corrected the article but the damage was done.”
The Day, unlike the Navy Times, printed an article short on facts, but long on quotes from the people who had slandered Webster Smith, and who were trying to save face. The same people who tried to label Webster Smith as a sexual predator and released his private cadet photograph to the news media to be beamed around the world.
At the Coast Guard Academy,” Chief Warrant Officer David M. French, an Academy spokesman, on Monday, 10 September, was quoted as saying “We feel the Department of Homeland Security’s final decision on the civil rights complaint from Webster Smith validates the Coast Guard Academy’s actions in this matter as appropriate.”
The CORRECTION buried in the B Section of The Day simply said “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a discrimination claim filed by Webster Smith, a black man expelled from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy following his court-martial for sexual assault. The department ruled that the complaint was not filed in the appropriate forum.”
To deny a complaint and then to give 30 days for one to appeal the denial, is a long ways from saying there was no discrimination. There has not yet been a decision on the ultimate issue of whether Webster Smith was a victim of racial discrimination. Here it is eight years later and justice has not been done in the Webster Smith Case. If a few of the people in the Department of Homeland Security had been marginally qualified, or had simply performed their jobs properly, this might have ended differently. As it is, the Case of Webster Smith remains An American Tragedy.