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Probe of 186th ARW continues

By Staff
from staff and wire reports
Aug. 20, 2003
An investigation of the Meridian-based 186th Air Refueling Wing was reported near completion Tuesday, but both the primary investigator and whistleblowers say there is still much work to be done.
State Adjutant Gen. James H. Lipscomb said in a brief press release issued by the Mississippi National Guard that the probe was nearing its end. Lipscomb had met on Sunday in Meridian with Col. Ken Emmanuel, the staff judge advocate from the Florida Air Guard who has been conducting the investigation and was in town for a second round of interviews.
The current investigation follows a probe completed earlier this year by the U.S. Air Force Inspector General that resulted in the termination of the unit's commander, Lt. Col. David Weaver, and the retirement of Lt. Col. Thomas Temple.
The earlier probe substantiated 16 allegations of racism, records falsification and corruption. The Air Force investigator turned over 22 additional allegations against others in the unit, which spawned the current examination.
Despite Lipscomb's assertion, Emmanuel said he is not done with his probe. "Absolutely not," he was quoted in The Clarion-Ledger today as saying in response to a question of whether he was finished with his probe.
And, Col. Jody Bryant, a former pilot with the 186th ARW who brought the allegations to light, told The Meridian Star that Lipscomb was deliberately trying to cut short the investigation.
Maj. Danny Blanton, a Guard spokesman, said Emmanuel had completed interviews in Meridian with individuals accused of misconduct and others claiming to have information about questioned activities at the 186th ARW, according to The Associated Press.
He said Emmanuel will transcribe the interviews, reach his conclusions and present his report for legal review before turning it over to Lipscomb. The adjutant general said he would review the findings and "take the appropriate correction action."
Blanton said he didn't know how many people had been questioned by Emmanuel, but that there were more than 40 tapes to transcribe.
I would say there are 30 more (interviews that need to be done),'' Bryant said. It doesn't tell the whole story. Don't we want to hear all that's wrong?''
But Bryant said the investigation was going better than he had hoped. He expects the latest investigation to reveal corruption within the Mississippi Air National Guard, including some of its top leaders.
This is just like a grand slam,'' Bryant said.
The investigation was looking into allegations of misconduct against at least 15 people, Bryant said.
Liquor store
Meanwhile, Blanton said the Air National Guard has turned over to state officials its probe of a liquor store that had operated at the 186th base in Meridian.
The inspector general's report found the store's operation may have violated state and federal laws. Since the allegations were made public, Temple, who co-managed the store, retired.
Blanton said an internal report was given to the state attorney general's office, which forwarded it to the state auditor.
Pete Smith, spokesman for State Auditor Phil Bryant, said the office had received a report from the National Guard, but would not confirm its contents or subject. He said the office was reviewing the report and couldn't comment.