Air Force Official Typed Apology Before Death

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Charles D. Riechers, the second-highest-ranking procurement official in the Air Force who died in an apparent suicide Oct. 14, apologized in a note he typed before his death for causing a "scandal," according to a report in today's New York Times.

The Times quoted a person familiar with the note who said it read: "I first and foremost express my deepest regret for a situation based on my naivet¿." It continued, "I've created a scandal."

Riechers, 47, was the subject of a front-page article in The Washington Post on Oct. 1 examining his employment at a Pennsylvania nonprofit group that performed work for the Air Force.

The article said that while waiting to be confirmed for his Pentagon post, the Air Force arranged a job for Riechers at the Commonwealth Research Institute but that he did no work for the firm. Instead, Riechers told The Post that he worked for Sue C. Payton, assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition. The arrangement later drew scrutiny from Congress.

The Air Force defended the arrangement, saying Riechers did work in support of the Air Force through a Commonwealth Research Institute contract.

Two people familiar with the note -- addressed to Payton -- told the Times that Riechers apologized repeatedly for causing a "doomsday scenario." He said he regretted that the Air Force procurement unit had come under fresh scrutiny just a few years after a scandal involving Darleen A. Druyun, Riechers's predecessor.

The Times report said Riechers had been found by neighbors in his garage in Loudoun County, apparently dead from the fumes of his car.

Payton, who has declined interview requests from The Post, told the Times that when she sought Riechers to become her deputy, he was considering working for several companies. Because it could take some time to get him an official White House appointment, she said she arranged for the job at Commonwealth so as not to lose her top pick for the position.

"In retrospect, I regret this so much," Payton told the Times. "If I had let him go, if I hadn't been so aggressive about bringing good people in, the guy would be alive today."

Riechers spent 20 years as an active-duty officer in the Air Force. He served in the Persian Gulf War and retired in 2002. He is survived by a wife and son.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company