Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why the DOJ Don't Love Eric May

Hank (Eli prefers it when he uses his Egyptian name, Ankh) found the answer to why the Department of Justice refused the recommendation of Eric May to bring a criminal referral against Charles Monnett. Turns out that our Inspector Clouseau has a track record.

His technical incompetence maneuvered the DOJ into bringing a case which came to a rather embarrassing end against the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District,

David Overvold, the district's lawyer, Lyman McConnell and two irrigation district employees — John Baker and Shelby Cecil — were named in a 10-count indictment handed up in December 2008 by a federal grand jury in Reno. Cecil since has died.
Turns out that Mr. Cecil had lung cancer, and Eric the Idiot showed up at his house unannounced in very IC manner. Cecil opened the door and reached for his oxygen tank. May thought he was reaching for a gun and rushed him. Just what a terminally ill man needs to get better.
Federal prosecutors accuse them of carrying out a scheme from 2000-05 to alter water delivery data to earn special "efficiency credits" that would entitle the district to more water and reduce a court-ordered water debt owed to the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe.
Ethon's new food group, Eric, was the technically challenged investigator who talked the Feds into bringing the case, and most of the information is buried under seal from the grand jury proceeding. However, the case being concluded, perhaps that (hi there Brian and Jeff) can be breached.

Overvold's lawyer, Craig Denny, had some not so nice things to say about Eric
Denney, a former federal prosecutor in Reno, has charged that May improperly coached and influenced witnesses, and altered witness statements, tainting grand jury proceedings and robbing Overvold of his right to due process.
The outcome was pretty much an egg-on-the-face outcome for the DOJ
The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID), based in Fallon, Nevada announced today that the Honorable James C. Mahan, Judge of the Federal District Court for the District of Nevada, has approved the dismissal with prejudice of all charges against the Truckee Carson Irrigation District (TCID), Lyman McConnell, and John Baker in a federal indictment that was issued by the Grand Jury on December 3, 2008

McConnell and Baker agreed not to seek reimbursement of their attorneys’ fees and expenses in defending themselves against the charges if the government’s position was found to be vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith. They also agreed not to file any claims against the government or its agents arising from the investigation and prosecution of the case.

David Overvold, TCID’s former Project Manager, who was represented by Craig Denney of Downey Brand, retired from his position at TCID, and has agreed to enter into a pretrial diversion program, while continuing to assert his innocence. After the pretrial diversion is completed in 18 months, the United States will also dismiss the indictment with prejudice against Mr. Overvold. Shelby Cecil, the former TCID Water Master, who was represented by Donald Evans, had charges against him dismissed on February 13, 2009, after he passed away.
and the reasons for the dismissal were classic
“There were some significant concerns raised by these motions,” TCID defense counsel Michael Van Zandt said, “that undermined the government’s theory of the charges and demonstrated that the charges in fact were not well-founded. For example, TCID filed a motion that asserted that a political subdivision of a state, such as an irrigation district in the State of Nevada, is not legally capable of committing a crime. This is a long established view based on the fact that a governmental entity is not able to form the specific intent to defraud, only a real live person can do that.” As to the misconduct allegations, Mr. Van Zandt stated that he cannot give specific information, but indicated that it involved the manner in which the case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

“If a person who was knowledgeable about the operation of an irrigation district with over 600 miles of canals, laterals and drains and some 70 water meter measuring devices had been involved in the investigation, this case would never have been filed in the first place,” Van Zandt stated. “Running an irrigation district on the scale of the Newlands Project, with over 3000 water right owners, receiving over 13,000 water deliveries in a single year, takes a lot of knowledge and experience to understand what is going on and how the deliveries are measured and reported,” Mr. Schank said. “You just can’t pick up a chart or report and understand everything that was involved with that water delivery without having the necessary background, and without investigating all of the circumstances behind a water delivery,” Schank added.

Kate Rutan, the Interim Project Manager for TCID had this to say: “I witnessed an honest man give up his dreams to build something worthwhile because of this indictment. I witnessed a kind, gentle, very ill man die with the accusation that he had committed a federal crime punishable by 20 years in jail hanging over his head. I witnessed an organization of honest hardworking people brought to their knees financially because of this indictment.”
The Trial of Charles Monnett is deja vu all over again


Anonymous said...

Wow. Wow.

Someone with power, like (is it PEER?) should see about breaking open the full gamut of the decision to dismiss with prejudice...and let the carrots fall where they may. (Okay, I'm entitled to one joke).

Donald Oats

Anonymous said...

A bit of background checking on federal prosecutors is never a bad thing. And it sure looks like May has some skeletons in the closer.

But there is a lot more going on here. Something essentially incorrect and highly scary.

First of all, it should never, ever be allowed for the federal government to send special agents to question 'scientific' results published in a peer-reviewed paper. As much as I would like to see some of these contrarian papers being questioned for their 'scientific integrity', in a society that embraces academic freedom, science is and should always be argued and challenged in scientific publications, on scientific grounds. If Monnett's paper is incorrect (in the math or the findings or the conclusions), then let somebody publish a corrected version. That's the way science works.

It has taken 400 years to create that academic freedom, and establish the scientific method as the only objective method to distinguish between truth and opinion for our observation of reality.

With the 'interview' of Monnett by federal special agent questioning 'scientific integrity' of his observation of some dead polar bears is so much in violation of this basic academic freedom, that I felt we were going back to the Middle Ages when I read the transcripts. Did any of this kind of questioning of peer-reviewed published scientific findings by federal agents ever happen before in modern times ?

Second, the 'trial' of Charles Monnett ?

Monnett works for the DOI. The plaintiff was an employee of the DOI. The special agents that respond to the original complaint and question Monnett are working for the inspector general office of the DOI. They keep on digging until they find something that they THINK is not right, and even before they present their final report, the plaintiff (you guessed it, the DOI) to relief Monnett of his duties from the DOI.
Monnett's legal reps file a counter complaint with...the same inspector general of the DOI that prosecuted Monnett in the first place.

And this is OK as a process ?
Scientists being judged on 'scientific integrity' and loosing their job in a 'trial' where the plaintiff and the prosecutor and the judge are all the same entity ?

Guys, there is something very, very wrong and very, very scary going on here.

J Bowers said...

"Did any of this kind of questioning of peer-reviewed published scientific findings by federal agents ever happen before in modern times ?"

I get the impression that prior to WW2 and the Cold War science was very much left to its own devices, but governments realised the value of science and got heavily involved during the above, especially during the latter. Funding may have increased, but the payoff for government was more involvement, especially when you consider that stopping the other side from getting their hands on the by-products could be paramount to national security. If you want the extreme of the way things could go look no further than Italy, where the trial of six geologists and a government official for manslaughter has begun for their not predicting an earthquake. It got to court. USGS say, "It has a medieval flavour to it ... like witches are being put on trial."

Rob Dekker said...

On March 9, 2009, president Obama issued the following memorandum to the heads of executive departments, regarding 'scientific integrity' :


Specifically the following two clauses are interesting :

(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised; and

(f) Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decisionmaking or otherwise uses or prepares.


These two clauses now seem to be used by Salazar at the DOI to allow (or even encourage) interrogation of scientific finding published by a federal scientist, while meanwhile protecting the person who filed the 'scientific' complaint (another employee of the DOI) as a 'whistleblower'.

Does anyone know how these two clauses got into the Presidential memorandum, and why there was not a clause added that allows federal scientists to publish scientific findings without running the risk of being put through the meatgrinder by special agents from the inspector general's office, threatened to be referred to the Justice Department under certain conditions, loose their job if IG can't find any scientific issues but believes there may be something else, be spit upon in public media, including threads via their spouses' email address ?

Seems to me the presidential memorandum failed to mention that federal scientists that publish findings (which may not match with the political opinion at the time) in a peer-reviewed journal should be protected as a whisleblower, at least as long as their findings are not contradicted by a multitude of other findings in peer-reviewed publications.

EliRabett said...

Rob sorry you got caught in the spam trap thrice. Eli moved only one of them up into the comments.

The reason this sort of thing was not included is that no one imagined that an IG would be so stupid. As we have seen a lack of imagination can be a dangerous thing.

Martin Vermeer said...

So the egg on the face is here.

Jeffrey Davis said...

May sounds like a cross between Clouseau and Javert.

Dude (if you're reading this) check yourself into the Dunning-Kruger Spa and Sanatorium.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Leave it to Hank
To use Page Rank
To find the May
Already sank.

Anonymous said...

Would remind all bucks and does of the poisoned pellet in the letter stamped Aug 25th to Inhofe from DOI’s Acting IG, Mary Kendall.

In March 2010, the OIG received credible allegations from a seasoned, career Department of the Interior (DOI) employee, that acts of scientific misconduct may have been committed by one or more DOI employees. These allegations were received by the OIG nearly a year prior to the issuance of DOI’s policy and protocols regarding the Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities. We are, however, in contact with the Department’s Office of Scientific Integrity on this matter, and are developing protocols for coordination on such matters in the future.

This puts Monnett’s 2nd grilling by agent May (Aug 9th) at least several months later then the adoption of the Integrity Policy and Protocols (unless the “nearly a year” is that of Venus, or Mercury). Seems to me, beyond the initial failure to consult with anyone about what was science (to the depth of where he could find a tide table, say) before sticking a fraud finding toe into events in the Arctic Ocean, there was a failure to RTF Department's Policy Manual.


David B. Benson said...


But DoI is filled with problems, not just this one.

Indian Affairs, anyone?

Anna Haynes said...

I would like to introduce a new term (and then flee) -
"'funhouse mirrors' tu quoque"

anthrosciguy said...

"Did any of this kind of questioning of peer-reviewed published scientific findings by federal agents ever happen before in modern times?"

There's a trial right now in Italy against scientists for not predicting an earthquake.

Strange days indeed, momma.

Anonymous said...

Horatio Algeranon mentioned ...there was a failure to RTF Department's Policy Manual

I thought the same thing initially. This can't be allowed in the Department's Policy Manual. It should not be possible for federal scientists to be questioned on their (already peer-reviewed) findings by criminal investigators from the IG who also threaten to refer the 'case' to the Justice Department if they find any possible 'wrongdoing'.

But then I found out that the reporting of another DOI employee (of suspected scientific misconduct by Monnett in his peer-reviewed paper) and the investigation by the IG, including the interrogation of Monnett by special agent May et al is all completely in compliance (and actually required) under the DOI "scientific integrity" policy, as put forward by Salazar himself, in Secretarial Order 3305 :


Read this, which demands that any employee reports (suspected) 'scientific misconduct', and will be protected :

"...employees will be protected if they uncover and report scientific misconduct by career or political staff. It shall be the duty of each employee, career and political, to report such misconduct."

Followed by this :

"DOI will identify, address, track, and resolve instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may have been compromised."


"...establish expectations of employees with regard to scientific integrity. Misconduct will not be tolerated. Allegations of misconduct will be investigated and disciplinary action will be taken, as appropriate."

Not sure if your jaw is hanging now, but mine was after reading such blatant statements. At the very least, these statements by Salazar show that May is simply doing what his boss tells him to do.

Which, in the end, not only sends an incredibly chilling message to any DOI scientist to avoid publishing scientific findings that may (or may not) depart from any political opinion that may prevail at any time within the department, but these rulings by Salazar create ligitimacy for the political influence over science that Obama's 'scientific integrity' policy was supposed to eliminate.

Rob Dekker

Anonymous said...

Sorry WhiteBeard, credit goes to you for the remark there was a failure to RTF Department's Policy Manual.


Anonymous said...

Rob D I'm not so sure that "May is simply doing what his boss tells him to do."

My husband and I have both worked in government agencies with various prosecution powers. And we've both worked with groups of people who really fancy themselves as Eliot Ness (or some imagined Australian equivalent). They're dealing with penny ante avoiders of government regulations in their businesses or pension/tax fraudsters of the sneaky but not-too-smart varieties. Not marvellously nice people but not master criminals either.

But the way they talk among themselves and the ludicrous letters and reports they draft tells you that, if they were American, they'd dream of door-kicking and gunslinging in the DEA, ATF, FBI television mode. Wannabes - a bit like all those rejected applicants from police and defence forces - but without the chutzpah to actually apply for such jobs.

The fact that legislation and regulations provide for investigative and punitive powers does not give investigators carte blanche to treat everyone as though they're the worst kind of evil-doers. The essence of public service is the exercise of judgment. Prudent, careful, considered judgment.


Martin Vermeer said...

> The essence of public service is the exercise of judgment.
> Prudent, careful, considered judgment.

(Mental image of Eric May bursting into tears over his keyboard, sobbing inconsolably, how he could possibly make amends, and how he'll never do it again, ever)

Anonymous said...

I'am Shelby Cecil's son I would like to see them all pay for my dad's death.

Anonymous said...

I'm Shelby Cecil youngest son and I would like to let all you people know that my Dad did have lung cancer ,he had one of his lungs removed and was one oxygen but before all of this bullshit happened he was doing good ,then he went down hill. I'm with my brother I hope everyone that came up with this bullshit that killed my Dad does pay . I also would like to tell Mr. May that it was a damn good thing I wasn't their when he pushed his way in my parents house because he wouldn't like the out come.My Dad would still be with us if this bullshit didn't happened .