Meridian Star

Local News

February 24, 2010

Court rules in ex-Guard officer’s lawsuit

Former 186th ARW guardsmen relieved of ruling

MERIDIAN —     The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of portions of a lawsuit filed by a former Mississippi Air National Guard colonel who claimed other officers retaliated against him for revealing corruption in his unit.

    Retired Col. Joe H. "Jody" Bryant Jr. filed a federal lawsuit in 2005, claiming members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian tried to intimidate him after he went public with concerns about racism, fraud and favoritism.

    The ruling has finally brought some relief to some of the 14 former guardsmen with the 186th ARW who were named specifically in the lawsuit.

    Frederick Feinstein, a former brigadier general with the Mississippi Air National Guard, named in the lawsuit, said Tuesday afternoon, "Everybody was in this group named in this lawsuit has been sick of this and is happy it is over. The legal system has for years dragged us through the mud even though Bryant admitted he didn't have any evidence to back up his accusations."

    According to information contained in the 27-page ruling, Bryant allegedly observed various acts of misconduct by Mississippi Air National Guard officials at the base here in Meridian. Bryant said actions such as attempts to force his resignation, career damaging reports, and assignment to a position under a junior officer were undertaken by these 186th ARW officials. Bryant also accused MSANG officials of acts relating to vandalism and violence including gun shots fired in and around his home.

    "I hope there is nothing left to be said about this," said Tommy Temple, a retired colonel with the 186th ARW. "It has been a dark cloud over our heads and those of the men and women currently serving with the wing. This was a stigma they have served under for many years. Now it should be gone for good."

    U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee dismissed portions of the lawsuit in 2008, including claims the defendants violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by filing a slander lawsuit against Bryant.

    The allegations of misconduct in the 186th ARW, which Bryant said he first brought to the attention of Guard officials in 1998 and detailed in a letter signed by dozens of officers in 2000, included racial bigotry, records falsification and misuse of funds.

    The military concluded in October 2004 that there were problems in the 186th ARW, including findings that its leaders misrepresented training levels in order to qualify for an overseas mission for which the unit was not qualified.

    Time and again, however, the document made the decision Bryant failed in all his attempts to present direct evidence that any of the individuals named in the lawsuit committed any of the acts claimed by him.

    "I hope I can safely say this is now behind me and all the others involved," Temple said.

    Air National Guard officials said disciplinary actions were taken depending on the severity of the substantiated allegations. Citing personnel rules, officials have not identified any of the personnel involved. They said among disciplinary actions were letters of reprimand, counseling and dismissal.

    Attempts to contact Bryant at his Meridian home were unsuccessful.

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