Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a
thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
—William Jennings Bryan
This book began to take shape one cool May afternoon in
2000. Retired since 1998, I had been content walking my big
yellow lab COSMO around and chauffeuring my youngsters here
and there. For me, at long last, the rat race had ended.
Pilar is the youngest of my three daughters from my first
marriage. She is a solo practicing attorney with a keen interest in
civil rights and employment law. We were sitting in a small
Ruston, Washington café overlooking Commencement Bay and
Mount Rainier that cool spring day in 2000. I had recently retired,
and she was curious about my service as a civilian army employee.
When I mentioned how government officials misused their
authority to further their own ends, her interest suddenly piqued.
She pressed me to learn more about my career from beginning to
end. Finally, she stunned me with an unexpected suggestion.
“Dad, you’ve had such an amazing life, why don’t you write
about it?” “Maybe, I will,” I said.
I had never thought of it that way, but she had planted a seed
that became this book. Did the public really care what happened
behind the closed doors of big government? I hoped so.
It wasthe taxpayers’ money that was being squandered. The more I
thought about it, the more I realized I had to tell what I knew.
I grew up in Seattle during the worst depression in our nation’s
history; yet I achieved that great American Dream, or at
least something close to it.
Raised by a single parent along with
two older brothers, I aspired to make something of myself. Since
the age of nine, I worked odd jobs like grass cutting and bartending
to earn spending money until I was able to put myself
through college and earn a degree in accounting. As a young
college graduate in 1955, my career began slowly, gained momentum,
and then shot up to a finish that exceeded my greatest
I was a member of the Silent Generation, which followed the
Greatest Generation and preceded the Baby Boomers. We
believed that prosperity was within our grasp and saw a bright
future where everything seemed possible. It was an exciting time
to be alive as a new optimism emerged following the end of
World War II.
After a slow start, I got lucky at age thirty-nine when I was
tapped for a high level assignment. Although it happened later
than I hoped, it put my career on a fast track. I joined the Federal
Civil Service in 1962 as an auditor after being fired earlier from
accountant positions at Shell and SAFECO. Burrowed deep
inside the system, I witnessed trusted Federal officials put their
interests ahead of taxpayers. Instead of protecting the public
interest, they exploited it for their own purposes. Operating
behind the scenes, corrupt bureaucrats quietly sought opportunixii
ties to reward themselves even if it meant breaking the public
I found it to be a shadowy world where power, position,
promotion, and profit tempted many to compromise their ethics
and to give in to temptation and greed. Towards the end of my
career I would publish an article in the spring, 1990 edition of The
Armed Forces Comptroller, addressing the need for ethics in government:
“Wanted: A Few Good Men.” (See Appendix A.)
Bosses, who themselves had engaged in chicanery, apparently
found it easier to look the other way, creating a climate of
indifference. By failing to hold cheaters accountable, they had
caused workplace integrity to become compromised and degraded.
If you questioned them, heads would turn, eyes would
roll, and a stony silence would often result. In the aggregate,
those bureaucrats, military and civilian, contributed to unprecedented
fraud, waste, and abuse across the entire economic and
You may wonder how it was possible for them to get away
with it? Weren’t controls in place to prevent it from happening?
Yes, there were lots of controls to detect and punish offenders.
However, you will discover as you read on, they were generally
ineffective. Like a fly on the wall, within the deep confines of
officialdom, I watched in amazement as corrupt officials maneuvered,
deceived, and misused their offices for personal gain.
Moving around from post to post, country to country, I traversed
a long, lonely, and circuitous route, enlivened by controversy,
achievement, adventure, and serendipity. One of my bosses
had opined: “You know what you are? You’re an enigma! Noxiii
body around here knows anything about you!” That description
proved oddly prophetic, and it stuck with me.
To adversaries, I was an anathema: a badass, who was despised
and disliked. I was perceived as a threat to them and their
group. Who were they? They were power clusters that coalesced
whenever threatened by a common cause or enemy. They might
be one or more of my subordinates, superiors, or others I
interacted with. Behind the scenes, they would work to undermine
my efforts through devious means like dirty tricks, mischief
making, or illegal use of authority to poison my career.
I once completed one of the largest management studies ever
done at a post, saving over $1 million annually in base operation
After receiving a commendation from the commanding
general, I was soon surprised to hear that my annual performance
rating had been reduced from “exceptional” to “outstanding.” A
cabal boss had been the instigator. That had cost me merit pay
and future pension benefits. Incensed, I complained bitterly to
my boss but to no avail.
“It’s nothing personal,” an army colonel once told me as he
recommended that my position as his deputy be abolished. The
Command had been expecting a large budget cut, and my job was
lumped in with some lower paying ones to be eliminated. At the
time, my position was the top civilian position in his organization.
I replied that I did not think eliminating it was a good idea
because it would weaken justification for his other positions and
shorten the promotion ladder, adversely affecting employee
morale. The budget cut never materialized, but the jobs were
That measure also cost me merit pay and
future pension benefits. I filed a formal complaint, but it was not
upheld. The action was officially deemed to be for economical
reasons. Furthermore, I was unable to prove that his action was
The worst boss I ever had was a devious and duplicitous
army colonel. A tall, intimidating man, he avoided giving me my
annual performance appraisal for two years. He also encouraged
my subordinates to deal directly with him, undermining my
supervisory authority. Once, when I got him to approve a special
initiative to increase yearend funding before funds expired, he
downplayed my efforts, saying, “That $3 million you recovered is
only chump change. That’s just doing your job!”
Later, he attempted to fire me by soliciting defamatory information from
other employees. That backfired when I found out and filed an
Inspector General complaint that silenced him. Undaunted, he
dropped an unsatisfactory performance rating on me without
discussion just as he retired. I immediately appealed.
That same boss feathered his own nest very well. Before retiring,
he succeeded in negotiating a “sweetheart” agreement with a
private company. By lowering their cost for base support service,
he received the promise of a high paying future position with that
company, in return. He had, in effect, accepted a bribe, which
under the Uniform Code of Military Justice was punishable by
dishonorable discharge, fine, and imprisonment. He had acted
with impunity because his bosses knowingly approved it by
looking the other way.
Looking back, it had been the best and worst of times. I
had maneuvered my way up though a succession of bureaucrats,
officials of all stripes, who played fast and loose with the public
trust and jealously guarded their turf against outsiders like me.
They were the so-called informal organization, and you had to go
through, around, or over them to get anything accomplished.
What shocked me most about my job was the sheer magnitude of
waste and corruption I saw.
The apex was reached when the Comptroller of the Army
selected me to chair a top-level worldwide management study of
the army’s commissaries. It had hit the Jack Anderson column on
the front page of the Washington Post in 1971, a scandal that
rocked the Pentagon and caught the attention of Congress.
Mine is an unusual story of adventure, conflict, risk taking,
fateful encounters, luck, and success. Why tell this story? The
public has a right to know how taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Moreover, unless the public holds the government accountable
for its actions, the waste will surely continue. I hope my story will
inspire others to stand up for what’s fair and just. In the words of
Dale Carnegie, who wrote the world’s bestseller, How to Win
Friends and Influence People, “Take a chance! All life is a chance. The
man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do
I took a chance, and it paid off big!
(Published in October 2009, the book is available at most well-known
book stores and through Amazon.com)