The Army agreed yesterday to pay a total of $27,500 in damages to as many as 65 members of the Army Band at Fort Myer for violating their privacy by posting their names as noncontributors to the 1977 Combined Federal Campaign, a government-wide charity drive.
As part of the settlement of a suit brought by three band members, the Army also agreed to numerous changes in the way it collects contributions in the annual fund-raising campaign.
The army said it would no longer post lists of contributors or noncontributors, will prohibit solicitors from urging potential donors to give so that a unit could have 100 percent participation and will restrict supervisory personnel from acting as key campaign solicitors.
In addition, the agreement allows individuals to make anonymous contributions and prohibits the Army from permitting one individual to make several contributions in the names of others to make it look like a unit had a high rate of participation. Moreover, the Army is banned from keeping statistics on participation.
The agreement must yet be formally approved by U.S. District Court Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr., who had been hearing preliminary motions in the case which was filed last June.
A total of 48 of the 65 Army Band members whose names were posted as noncontributors on a Fort Myer bulletin board have already said they want to be included in collecting the damages. If no more enter the suit, then each of the 48 will receive $572. If all 65 eventually make a claim, the individual payments would drop to $423.
"We're thrilled to death," said Benjamin T. Riddles, who until three weeks ago was a bass vocalist with the band before leaving the Army to go to law school at the University of Florida. "It's going to help charities in the long run.Some had begun to resent charities and a lot were giving $1 to get the charities off their backs."
But he said that with truly voluntary giving, Army personnel might be more willing to give to charities of their choice.
"We feel like it's a good-faith effort on the part of the Army," Riddles said. The agreement also calls for the Defense Department to study whether the changes in the Army contributions policy also should be adopted by the entire Defense Department.
Diane B. Cohn, a lawyer for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen Litigation Group, which brought the suit, said that the agreement may have some impact throughout the U.S. on policies in the Combined Federal Campaign, a charity drive that received nearly $80 million in 1977, the last year for which a total is available.
When informed of the settlement, George J. McQuoid, an Office of Personnel Management official who helps set policies for the federal charity drive, said that percentages of participation are kept. He said he did not think the agreement would curtail giving.
Riddles, who filed the suit along with another bass vocalist, Spec. 6 Michael R. Dudley, and a clarinet player, Sgt. 1st Class Raymond N. Miller, said the three "are real proud. This is still America. There little guys can do something."
Nonetheless, he said that the suit "didn't endear me" to his Army Band superiors. "who felt we were traitors to the unit."
At one point, he said, he was removed as a soloist, allegedly so that "there would be no appearance of pressure on me." But he said that the Army rescinded that order after he objected.
Riddles charged in the suit that the Combined Federal Campaign violates his religious beliefs and "mocks the very spirit of charity by publicly establishing the amount which one is expected to give and then designating the amount as an individual's 'fair share.'"
Riddles and Dudley, in separate affidavits, said that Army Band officials had "badgered" them to contribute.