Second Worker at the Military Records Center in St. Louis Sentenced

National Record Center St Louisby Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Last week, I reported on the deliberate misfiling, destruction, and throwing away files at the Records Center in St. Louis.  Although an audit showed several employees were outside normal limits for error rates, only two were serious enough to warrant charges.

As I described in the earlier story last week, one of the men, 28-year-old Lonnie Halkmon, entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of destruction of government records. Halkmon was sentenced to forty hours of community service and two years probation. He could have gotten up to six months in jail on that charge.

Engram was responsible for the destruction of more than a thousand records. He destroyed some of them, threw 241 away in the woods near the Center, and took others home with him where he tossed them in the trash.

Yesterday, the second defendant, 21-year-old Stanley Engram was given an identical sentence by U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Adelman.  At the sentencing, Judge Adelman told Engram, “There was no reason for this. Veterans depend on the records for pension and disability benefits.”

Engram’s lawyer, Eric Banks told Judge Adelman that his client has “…seen the error of his ways.”

Yeah, right.

The workers are given incentive pay for completing and closing out files. Obviously, management did not check with an industrial psychologist to see what could possibly go wrong when employee pay depends on how many files they close out.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

24 thoughts on “Second Worker at the Military Records Center in St. Louis Sentenced

  1. What they tossed was of great importance to the vets and their families. These guys should be thinking about that in jail.

    A childhood friend’s family didn’t get benefits b/c her father’s records were missing or messed up. They survived w/o the benefits but it hurt.

  2. Laser,
    Probably not, but they are working on preserving the records found in the woods. The misfiled records may never be found. The Center holds millions of records.

    IMHO, the agency needs to start making digital copies of everything as soon as possible and make imaging the records a priority. I am aware there are people in both the public and private sector who don’t believe in spending tax money for anything at all, but they apparently did not learn anything from the fire.

    If they do start making copies, perhaps as they plow through those millions of records, the misfiled stuff will turn up.

  3. Perhaps destructive events such as this one may eventually guide humans into clearly distinguishing the name of things from the things named, and no less importantly, distinguishing the names of things and the things named from the process of naming things and identifying things only by name instead of by both name and process.

    Those distinction are, in my view, of the heart of the central issue within the emerging fields of semiotics and biosemiotics.

    Naming case closing as the goal accomplishment to be rewarded denigrates and demeans the lives involved in the cases and case management.

  4. As a veteran, with my records in St. Louis–hopefully–this is just disgusting. It’s not enough that veterans fight and die for our country, now some of us have to suffer the indignity of not even existing.
    These men belong in jail for a long time and even that won’t make up for the pain and suffering their actions caused.

  5. Pretty sad – fortunately, as a disabled vet, I did not have to rely on missing records for my subsidy – disabled fellow vets left out on a limb deserve priority treatment from Congress – that is, to fix the system before it does a gigantic data crash

  6. NM Ackerman…one might be able to get a commitment from Congress but the odds of actually getting anything through this Congress is virtually nil. We now have a non-functioning government filled with incompetent individuals that treat ignorance as a virtue.

    Rest assured that the paper tigers in Congress, wearing an American flag on their lapels, who are quick to pronounce “we support the troops” will get nothing done to help these Veterans. Their support of Veterans and troops is a hallow empty promise used for sound bites to appease their equally ignorant base of supporters.

  7. Vets don’t matter but bankers do. I am sure the perpetrators were well aware that professional patriots only care about soldiers in speeches.

    Let’s honor our veterans by jailing war criminals, war profiteers and government officials who lie to Congress and reinstating the protections afforded to us by the Constitution by dismantling the NSA. Just for starters.

  8. I date back to active duty status in WW II and the Korean [police action it was called then ! ], and have a vivid memory when as a kid in 1936, standing at the curb on Riverside drive in New York City at a Memorial Day Parade, watching Spanish-American War vets jauntily parading along and then seeing a single open car with three or four very old fellows – in gray or blue uniforms- sitting side by side & waving at the cheering crowd –

    It should be the duty of the veterans associations to get off their collective butts and take the military records issue to the floor of Congress

  9. And further, both as a vet and as a medical doctor [neuro-psychiatrist], I think the failure of the medical and psychiatric groups to bring PTSD and brain contusion diagnoses and treatment up to the front burner is appalling –

  10. This whole topic has been vastly overblown. As an archivist not connected with the records center, I have visited the facility several times. There are millions and millions of records stored in that facility. They get thousands of requests every day for information. They have dozens of employees retrieving records in response to requests and refiling the files when the requests have been filled. Two of those employees were irresponsible. To call this “terrorism” is ludicrous. I know several of the professional archivists at the facility. They care deeply about their mission and spend an incredible amount of time searching for the information that veterans and their families need, including painstakingly recovering data from partially burned records. Many of the millions of records in their custody will never be requested, but they keep all of them for the instances that they are. It would be fiscally irresponsible to digitize the records.

    Please chill with the rhetoric about disrespect. That couldn’t be further from the case!

  11. Marvin,
    As a Veteran I can tell you absolutely that at least two employees were not only irresponsible but need to be jailed. If you think this is overblown then try telling that to a disabled Vet who can’t get his benefits because of the reckless manner in which his files were handled.

    Those in charge may be very nice people, but when thousands of records are deliberately destroyed then those in charge are not doing their job. I would consider replacing them for their lack of initiating proper controls to keep something like this from happening.

    This is inexcusable and needs to be fixed right now, and those in charge should be held accountable. And yes, those nice people in charge are being disrespectful to allow this to happen.

    So, no I won’t chill out, because this is something that has a profound impact on many veterans, including myself. Chill out? I don’t think so.

  12. Pete…Amen brother. Or better yet, give them a uniform and rifle and put them in the heat of battle so they can develop an appreciation of what some of these men and women have had to experience. Although these two cowards would probably not distinguish themselves when the going got a little rough. This is totally disrespectful to those who in many cases gave their lives for our country—-and to have their valuable records tossed out like trash is an obscenity.

  13. Poorly designed bonus systems open the door to employees engaging in undesirable behaviors in pursuit of their bonuses. Have seen this in a number of occasions. Employees who participate in a bonus plan soon learn how to maximize their bonuses. In such instances, employees’ actions can easily be in direct conflict with higher order objectives and prevent achieving them.

  14. The very least of their offenses is that they are thieves, haven stolen paychecks while fraudulently claiming even bonuses to boot. All for work not done. A decent police officer could write up a laundry list of crimes they are darn-sure guilty of and the Courthouse Gang just let them off???? Bribes?? makes sense to me in that way…..
    Hang them for the traitors they obviously are.

  15. What we are discussing here pertains to employees who do not respect their employment. Here it offends those as discribed, but I’ll suggest in other instances it will be accepted as the price of doing business. Why ?

  16. Many years ago while in college, in a galaxy far away, I worked in that records center as a summer clerk. I was in the unit that pulled records in response to requests by promotion boards, congress critters, etc. Our unit was very conscientious about handling the records, and there was an air of professionalism even though what we did was mundane. Sad to see this happen. I agree with Prof Turley that this is probably a symptom of a larger problem within the center, although that apparent problem is no excuse for the conduct of the employee. I tend to concur with the sentence, provided that there was a healthy amount of restitution involved to compensate the persons whose records were trashed.

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