In a no-frills cubicle as far to the rear of the Agriculture Department's South Building as one can go, J.P. Jones shuffles "make-work" reports, watches the clock and collects $55,600 a year in wages.
Jones has been in dutch since last year when he began blowing the whistle on political superiors. His complaints led to an inspector general's investigation that brought a 30-day suspension for his boss, the executive director of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) in Texas.
The director, Wayne Mayfield, was suspended after USDA's director of personnel, William J. Riley Jr., ruled that Mayfield had sexually harassed female employes and misused government vehicles. The suspension ended May 6.
Mayfield denied all the charges. But the IG's report included numerous sworn statements that Mayfield made passes and suggestive remarks and other statements that he allowed alcoholic beverages to be carried in a government vehicle.
Jones is paying a price for whistle blowing.
A Republican, Jones held a political job with ASCS in Washington between 1969 and 1971. Then he went home to Texas in 1972 as the assistant to the executive director of the ASCS in that state, the highest-ranking civil servant in that division. Mayfield, who had worked under Jones, became executive director when the Reagan administration took office in 1981.
There was trouble almost from the start. Jones complained that Mayfield cut him out of the action and "refused to let me do my job." Jones finally complained to Washington, and then the trouble got serious.
The first hint came when a clerk inadvertently left the last page of the confidential minutes of the state ASCS executive committee on a copying machine. The minutes said that the committee had decided to fire Jones once the USDA investigation was over. The minutes indicated that high-level ASCS officials in Washington, Roy Cozart, who is a Texan, and southwest region director Al Oberg, felt "something had to be done" about Jones.
The misplaced minutes were found by a friend and turned over to Jones. He is using the document as ammunition in his half-dozen complaints against USDA and the ASCS, charging discriminatory treatment and reprisals.
The next hint came when Jones, 62 and eligible for retirement, was informed two days before last Thanksgiving that he was being reassigned from his office at College Station to USDA headquarters. He was told to report for temporary duty in Washington by the following Monday.
"I had all the abuse I was going to take," Jones said recently. "Whenever they pushed me, I filed charges against them. They told me I could retire or move up here to D.C., but I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of quitting. I refused to retire. A week after I got here, they told me the job was to be permanent."
Jones said his first assignment was to look into the costs of the ASCS district directors. "But they had no data for me to look at, so I sat there for a week doing nothing. Now I review audits and write summaries. It's do-nothing make-work," he said.
Some of his time, however, is spent talking to former ASCS colleagues in Texas, who keep him informed of every political blip in the agency -- despite the best efforts of officials here to keep Jones in isolation.
Earlier this year, Cozart ordered Jones to have no more contact with Texas. Then he wrote to him on March 22, saying the order had been violated and "your actions have disrupted the Texas state office and undermined the supervision of the state office employes."
"These actions on your part cannot be tolerated. You are not only a disruptive force in the Texas state office, you are undermining the authority of the state executive director," Cozart wrote.
Cozart barred Jones from communicating with anyone in the Texas office during duty hours and from visiting the state office "without my expressed permission." He warned that discipline or firing could result if the orders weren't followed.
In an interview, Cozart said Jones "took after everyone after the state committee rated him down . . . . He took that as a move to fire him. There's no move to fire him. As long as he does his job he can stay."
He added, "Jones was transferred here because he was causing problems and creating frictions through his complaints. He was moved for the good of the Texas ASCS. He's the kind of guy who's a crusader, which is all right if it's for the right thing. But he hasn't made a tremendous contribution."
Cozart said he agreed that Jones' complaints were substantiated by the inspector general. But, he said, "He's drug up all this other stuff from a long time ago. Why didn't he fight his own case?"
Actually, he has. Jones has taken his problem to the Merit Systems Protection Board and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others. "I happen to be a Republican, but they shouldn't get away with this stuff," he said. "They're gonna have their hands full with me. I want to see this through to the very end. I've got these people in Texas to think about."