Just a few days after the release of a Pentagon report that confirmed the remains of 9/11 victims processed through the Dover Air Base mortuary were dumped in a landfill, we finally have a head rolling down the aisle, but it took the form of a voluntary resignation. The Washington Post reports:
Quinton “Randy” Keel, 44, formerly the Dover mortuary’s division director, cleaned out his desk at the air base Monday after he tendered his resignation, according to officials familiar with the case. An Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. John L. Dorrian, confirmed that Keel was no longer employed by the Air Force but declined to comment further.
Keel, of Felton, Del., did not respond to phone messages this week seeking comment.
He was one of three supervisors at Dover whom the Air Force in November accused of “gross mismanagement” at the military’s primary mortuary for handling America’s war dead. An 18-month investigation, spurred by whistleblowers who worked for Keel, documented instances of missing body parts and the sloppy handling of human remains, among other problems.
It sounds from this timeline as if Keel took a powder right before the Pentagon report on the 9/11 victims was released on Tuesday. Perhaps he anticipated what was coming.
Of course, we’ve known about the mistreatment of soldiers’ remains since November, and that apparently wasn’t horrible enough to cost anyone his job – a point that has not escaped notice by the families of our fallen heroes:
Investigators found that Keel ordered an embalmer to saw off the arm bone of Sgt. Daniel Angus, a Marine killed in Iraq, so he could fit in his dress uniform in a casket. Keel overruled objections from mortuary workers that such an act amounted to mutilation and that they lacked permission from the Marine’s family.
Angus’s parents, Kathy and William Angus of Thonotosassa, Fla., remain frustrated with the Air Force’s handling of the scandals at Dover, according to their attorney, Mark J. O’Brien of Tampa.
“They would have preferred that Mr. Keel have been fired months ago but they are certainly not upset at the news that he resigned,” O’Brien said in an e-mail. “However, if nothing else happens in this matter except for one of the major players involved in this cover-up being allowed to resign in lieu of being fired, then the Angus family will not be — nor will they ever be — satisfied.”
The embalmer in question, James G. Parsons Sr., blew the whistle on Keel… and was fired for his trouble, along with three others, in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act. He eventually got his job back after the Office of Special Counsel became involved. Parsons also objects to letting Keel fester in his position until resigning voluntarily, saying “it would have been nice to see them do something a lot sooner.”
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, who has been criticized for not taking swifter and firmer action against mortuary supervisors, is said to be reviewing the Office of Special Counsel’s report, and “will make a decision by the middle of the month” according to the Washington Post.