The awards ceremony Oct. 6 at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region project leaders meeting started off pleasantly enough. Amos Eno, a former Interior Department employee and for many years executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, was at the banquet to present the "Chuck Yeager Award" to a deserving employee.
Eno began by saying he knew Yeager and that the famed pilot, a former foundation board member, was someone who knew how to "stand up to the powers that be" and fight for his cause. By way of example, Eno told the 120 or so employees there that he and Yeager had warred constantly with Bush administration Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. and that at one point Yeager got so fed up he went to complain to President Bush directly.
And then it happened:
"I hope there are no Hispanics in the room," Eno said, according to Spence Conley, FWS assistant regional director for external affairs and apparently the only person in the room taking notes. Eno, oblivious to all manner of sirens and alarm bells going off, continued: "He said, 'Mr. President, get that damned chile-eater off the foundation's back.' "
The shrapnel flew everywhere. Hispanics and others in the audience complained. Eno started apologizing and says he offered his resignation to the board of the foundation, a congressionally chartered, public-private venture that gets some of its $150 million budget from Interior but most from private funds. (The Interior secretary picks the board members.)
FWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark fired off a blistering note to the board a week later about the "inappropriate and insensitive remarks," which were "an egregious insult to . . . Hispanic employees and Hispanics everywhere. . . . If one of my senior managers had made similar statements, I would find it extremely difficult to allow that manager to remain in place."
The board didn't accept Eno's offer to resign but suspended him without pay until Dec. 1, pending an independent investigation of Eno and the foundation's commitment to diversity.
That prompted a scorching letter from the National Hispanic Environmental Council to the foundation, saying it will ask Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to investigate "the board's violation of its public trust" by not demanding Eno's "immediate resignation or termination."
Letting him stick around for even a moment was "completely inexplicable and hugely disappointing [and] . . . shameful," said council president Roger Rivera.
Eno says he had no intent to be racist or offensive. "I goofed, I was stressed out. I didn't realize at the time I was making a pejorative remark." He asked for and got a 90-minute meeting Friday with Rivera and others at the council where "I apologized sincerely, profusely, abjectly, repetitively," but noted the group is demanding a "zero-tolerance standard."
"This is not a personal campaign to get Mr. Eno," Rivera said after the Friday session. "This is not a vendetta. There are important principles at stake here." Strong debate over issues is perfectly acceptable, "but the minute you bring race or ethnicity into it, you deserve to be fired."
Stay tuned . . .
There was much to-do last week about a "breakthrough" deal between Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) over handling stalled judicial nominations.
The deal came in the form of a colloquy on the Senate floor that never occurred--a pretend colloquy was inserted into the record as if it happened, and only C-SPAN junkies would know it didn't. The one-page agreement, signed by both men, also had an interesting little editing change from Lott.
Daschle says "it is also my understanding" that Lott will take up "each of the remaining judicial nominees no later than March 15 of next year. Is that also correct?"
Lott was to say, "That is correct." But he personally scratched out "correct" and wrote in "my hope." An ominous backtrack? Daschle is reportedly not worried.
Sally Shelton, former assistant administrator for global issues at the Agency for International Development and former ambassador to Barbados, is settling in as deputy secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD, headquartered in Paris, coordinates foreign aid programs for the world's industrial countries.
Microsoft Corp., looking to spruce up its image, has turned to veteran Washington hand Ginny Terzano to turn things around. Terzano, a former aide to Ronald H. Brown at the Democratic National Committee, deputy press secretary to President Clinton and press secretary for Vice President Gore, is going to head the corporation's growing D.C. presence. No doubt this last year's experience as flack for easygoing Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo will prove good training.
Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, a domestic policy adviser to Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R), is joining an Indiana law firm, Baker & Daniels, when he leaves office Dec. 31. And he is going to be in the firm's Washington office, Sagamore Associates, about half-time. That would make a move to a Bush administration job a lot simpler.