Who says State Department officals are a bunch of tea-sipping wimps? When it comes to handling whistle-blowers, they are regular Charles Bronsons.
Most vengeful bureaucrats retaliate against underlings who expose their shortcomings by harassing them or getting them fired on trumped-up charges. But the State Department transferred a persistent whistle-blower to a post where he could get killed: Baghdad, the war-torn capital of Iraq.
The career Foreign Service officer, David S. Wick, was recalled from the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad after he sent an anonymous tip to Washington on possible misuse of funds by the ambassador, Sheldon Krys. After being rejected for two other assignments, Wick was offered Baghdad as a last chance. He took up duties there on Oct. 1.
Krys told us he would never violate department rules or order anyone else to violate them. And he said he did not know Wick was a whistle-blower when he had him recalled to Washington. Rather, he ordered the move because he had lost confidence in Wick.
But Wick contends he was suspected of blowing the whistle on the Trinidad embassy operations right from the start. On the very day in December 1986 when investigators for the State Department's inspector general arrived to check out the anonymous charges, Wick's supervisor asked him if he was the one who had tipped them off, according to an affidavit Wick sent to the inspector general. Presciently fearing reprisal, Wick denied it. The supervisor then instructed him not to be too helpful to the inspector general's investigators, according to the affidavit.
A month before the inspector general arrived, we had reported on Krys' elaborate refurbishing of the Trinidad embassy while the State Department was closing down consulates to save money and begging Congress for funds to beef up security.
Our associate Stewart Harris has obtained a copy of Wick's allegations that the ambassador ordered others to misuse funds to redecorate his official residence in Trinidad. Although the inspector general has found no evidence of criminal violations, investigators are studying the evidence to determine whether regulations were broken.
In his affidavit, Wick acknowledged he was the inspector general's tipster and accused the ambassador of ordering the purchase of an ice maker, a stereo, two refrigerators and a freezer for the chancery even though the furnishings account was exhausted. Wick swore that the applicances were paid for -- improperly -- out of the salaries and expenses account.
Wick's case has been taken up by Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.). In a letter on June 25, after Wick had been summarily recalled from Trinidad, Schroeder wrote to Inspector General Sherman Funk, noting that "members of the Foreign Service will be loath to disclose any information" to the inspector general's office if they risk retaliation.
Funk promised Schroeder he would investigate quickly, and he cited his record as inspector general at the Commerce Department, where he "went to extraordinary lengths to support employes who were penalized because they assisted us."