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ANONYMOUS GROUP TRIGGERS 2 PROBES OF VA OFFICIAL IN UTAH

An anonymous group has triggered two full federal probes into whether a Veteran's Administration official in Utah verbally abuses employees, skips work and uses government equipment for personal use - and should be fired.

Gordon Moreshead, director of the Veteran's Affairs Information Systems Center in Salt Lake City, says he's not guilty of the accusations - and isn't happy that a cloud can be cast on his career by anonymous letters from people operating from the shadows."Federal employees have certain rights you can't take away, but it's tough to see the weight given anonymous charges," he said. "The first time I ever heard of charges against me was from the VA inspector general. Not one of my employees ever told me I did anything they considered wrong or offensive."

One probe by the inspector general - an office in all federal agencies that encourages workers to report waste and abuse, anonymously if necessary - is still ongoing into whether Moreshead used government computers to keep records for his Lutheran Church and to manage his personal stocks.

Another probe was recently completed. It failed to substantiate many of the problems alleged in the anonymous letters - but partially substantiated some and found other problems for which it criticized Moreshead.

After that probe, more letters were sent to the press with damaging details they said should have been in the inspector's report but were not. They were signed by "Barbara Christenson" of the "Minority Women's Support Group, Salt Lake Agencies Combined."

But no phone listing for her or the group could be found, and VA and Federal Information Center officials said they had never heard of either. Moreshead also said he never heard of them.

The probe partially substantiated claims of verbal abuse, that Moreshead had not worked the hours assigned him and that he had an assistant to fill out time forms saying he had.

It found additional problems that had not become allegations, including using frequent-flier bonuses from government travel for personal use (Moreshead agreed to refund the government if necessary), overpaying the nearby VA hospital for use of a car and not fixing equipment in a timely manner - all of which Moreshead said were inadvertent.

The most serious charge from the anonymous letters that was partially substantiated was that Moreshead verbally abused employees who were women or members of the LDS Church.

"Over half of the staff that were interviewed stated they were personally subjected to offensive or inappropriate comments and/or witnessed verbal abuse of others," the inspector general report said, noting Moreshead said he did not remember making such statements but may have been "goaded" into them.

The report said Moreshead had referred to Mormonism as a cult and said its adherents are "like sheep." The Christenson letter listed many specific, offensive comments it said that Moreshead made. It also said he verbally abused blacks and Jews - which Moreshead denies.

Moreshead told the Deseret News he on occasion walked into an already ongoing discussion of religion among his staff and stated his opinions. "I learned the hard way it's best not to talk about religion and politics. . . . I didn't mean to offend anyone. I didn't start the discussions."

He said an employee also would come into his office and make disparaging remarks about others and try to get him to agree - which he says now may have been an effort to set him up. "I was naive when I talked to him. Someone went to a lot of trouble to compile this list of things I supposedly said."

Another accusation somewhat substantiated was that Moreshead did not work the hours he was supposed to and told an assistant to report on time cards that he had.

The report said Moreshead was supposed to work from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. But he "stated that because of a chronic medical condition causing him discomfort in the mornings, he routinely reported to work between 9 and 10 a.m."

However, Moreshead said he always worked more than 40 hours a week because of late-hour and weekend work. The inspector said he should have changed his official hours instead of telling the office timekeeper to record his hours as normal - saying it caused a perception among the staff that he was not working 40 hours a week.

An example of accusations the probe did not substantiate was that Moreshead used a government car or van for personal use. The inspector said several employees said they heard him claim he had but had not actually seen him do it.

Moreshead said he once joked about people using cars for personal use but that he had not done it.

Moreshead said he has been advised not to comment on the probe that is ongoing about use of government computers for personal business.