New disciplinary action in Dover war-remains case

Monday - 5/21/2012, 8:24pm EDT

By ROBERT BURNS
AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Air Force has reprimanded for a second time a colonel accused of retaliating against workers at the Dover, Del., military mortuary who reported the mishandling of body parts of some of America's war dead.

In a written statement the Air Force said Monday that it issued a reprimand against Col. Robert Edmondson and ordered him to forfeit $7,000 in pay. Last year it reprimanded him and denied him further command assignments after an inspector general's probe found him and two others at Dover to be responsible for "gross mismanagement." He remains in uniform but the punishments are likely to curtail his career.

The Air Force also said it has suspended Trevor Dean, who had served as Edmondson's top civilian deputy at Dover, for 20 days without pay, for his role in the reprisals. A third person accused of taking inappropriate actions against the whistle-blowers, Quinton Keel, resigned before action could be taken against him.

For their roles in the mishandling of remains, Dean and Keel last year took a cut in pay and were moved to nonsupervisory jobs.

The whistle-blowers' original allegations of mishandling of war remains at Dover were forwarded to the Pentagon in May and July 2010 by an independent federal investigative agency, the Office of Special Counsel.

Last November the Air Force went public with the findings of its inspector general, which concluded that mistakes made in the handling of war remains were not criminal but reflected "gross mismanagement" at Dover.

The Office of Special Counsel then investigated the Dover whistle-blowers' allegations of reprisals by Edmondson and others. It concluded that Edmondson was the "primary force" behind most of the retaliation. It said the reprisals against four whistle-blowers included suspensions, threats of firing, terminations and disciplinary letters.

In its announcement Monday, the Air Force said it has corrected the whistle-blowers' personnel records "to eliminate any negative information that resulted from any prohibited personnel practices committed" by Edmondson and supervisors.

The Air Force also expressed gratitude to the whistle-blowers for having reported the allegations of wrongdoing.

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