Whistleblower named in slander' lawsuit
By By Buddy Bynum / editor
July 3, 2003
A dozen current or retired members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing charge in a lawsuit that they were slandered by two officers who were instrumental in bringing to light allegations of wrongdoing at the unit.
The lawsuit, filed last month in Lauderdale County Circuit Court, also says each of the plaintiffs "is the subject or material witness in a supplementary investigation of review and inquiry' presently being conducted by the Adjutant General of the state of Mississippi."
That investigation, an outgrowth of an Air Force Inspector General's probe of the 186th ARW, is being conducted by Col. Ken Emanuel of the Florida Air Guard at the behest of Maj. Gen. James Lipscomb, Mississippi's Adjutant General.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs claim they were slandered by comments made by Col. Jody H. Bryant, a former officer in the 186th who blew the whistle on allegations of wrongdoing, and Col. David J. Bertholf, the former active duty Air Force inspector general who was the primary investigating officer into Bryant's allegations.
The comments, according to the suit, were made by Bryant and Bertholf on a radio talk show on WMOX in Meridian on May 27. The radio station was not named in the suit.
The lawsuit, which did not contain the actual words it describes as slander, said the names and reputations of the plaintiffs were damaged by Bryant and Bertholf's comments. The lawsuit contends the words caused the plaintiffs emotional distress and seeks to recover unspecified punitive damages.
Plaintiffs in the suit are Col. Franklin E. Chalk, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Frederick D. Feinstein, CMSGT Roy A. Graham, Lt. Col. F. Gregory Malta, CMSGT William F. Parten, and SMSGT Charles F. Speed, all of Meridian; CMSGT Billy Joe Gressett, Lt. Col. Donald E. Jones and CMSGT Roger E. Shirley, of Chunky; Lt. Col. Langford L. Knight, of Toomsuba; Col. Robert Earl Pierce, of Union; and Col. Aaron K. Wilson, of Collinsville.
In response to the lawsuit, Bryant said, "I have been advised that I am not at liberty to discuss the ongoing litigation, however, I will say that the truth will speak for itself at the closure of this suit.