By Daniel Lyght
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006
For the past three summers, Kim Gore and her two children have opened their Woodbridge home to about a dozen minor league baseball players for the Potomac Nationals. Like many area host families, the 51-year-old logistician with the U.S. Army provided support as the players adapted to living in Northern Virginia, and helped the ones from Latin America learn how to speak English.
But Gore said that generosity has now put her career in jeopardy. The Army has put Gore "under review" over concerns that the foreign-born players are a threat to national security. Gore said she has had her workload at Fort Belvoir altered, her security clearance reduced and her ability to work from home taken away.
The Army said it is reviewing Gore because she had access to a secure computer network while working at home with foreign nationals living with her, according to spokesman Timothy Ridge. Ridge declined to provide more specific details about the case, citing privacy laws.
"I'm outraged and I'm indignant, but I'm also scared," Gore said. "I feel like I'm being crucified."
Gore has been a civilian employee of the Department of Defense for 33 years. She said her most recent work involved making sure that the Army's computer equipment is delivered at the correct place and time, built to specification and suitable for its personnel. She said she fears she will lose her security clearance, making it difficult for her to find work in the government.
Families in minor league towns throughout the country volunteer to serve as summertime hosts, sometimes offering free food and lodging for players whose monthly salary is dwarfed by that of their major league counterparts. The Nationals are a Class A team, one of the lowest rungs in professional baseball, and are part of the major league Washington Nationals' system. Potomac players are usually 21 to 25 years old.
"I just think it's pretty ridiculous, honestly," Potomac Vice President and General Manager Bobby Holland said. "These players meet fans, talk to kids and sign autographs. . . . I understand the day and age we live in. You have to be careful and respect our government for what they are trying to do. But a situation like this, if they would investigate it, they would see how harmless it is."
The foreign players who lived with Gore were from Venezuela, the Netherlands Antilles and the Dominican Republic, she said. They were assigned to live with her by Potomac's booster club, Holland said.
"I thought it was fun because I got to learn about other cultures," Gore said. "I got a chance to show them what the average, everyday American is like. They are very friendly, loving people. They are always just upbeat and happy."
Gore said she grew attached to the players who lived with her and she would cry when they left the Potomac team. "I looked at them as my sons," she said.
Gore learned in May she has a rare form of breast cancer. She said the nearly weekly treatment she receives at Duke University sometimes leaves her extremities numb, making driving to work at Fort Belvoir difficult. In May, she asked the Army to allow her to work from home and the request was granted temporarily on Aug. 23. She worked from home from Aug. 28 to 30.
But on Aug. 24, the Potomac News profiled Gore along with other families that host Nationals players. Six days later, she was called in from her home to Fort Belvoir and interviewed about the players' presence. She said she was asked how she could be sure players weren't looking over her shoulder as she worked.
"I would never jeopardize myself, my kids, my job, my community or my nation," she said.
After the meeting, she was placed under review and her duties were reduced. Ridge said the review is unrelated to heightened security concerns after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and is solely because of the article.
Gore's performance evaluation reports from the Army from 2002 to 2005 show she received the highest employee rating possible. In three of her last five reviews she was praised for her integrity.
"Either I'm honest or I'm not," Gore said. "It doesn't change because baseball players are around me."