Ex-Arlington Cemetery deputy takes the 5th
Former Arlington National Cemetery Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, 68, has invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to make self-incriminating testimony and been dismissed by a Senate subcommittee investigating contract irregularities related to Army findings that hundreds of graves are unmarked or mismarked at the cemetery.
Higginbotham answered basic questions, but repeatedly declined to answer when questioned about his role in approving millions of dollars worth of botched contracts to digitize cemetery records.
Committee chair Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) then dismissed him.
Former Arlington Superintendent John C. Metzler, Jr., is now testifying. He has told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on Contracting Oversight that most of the hundreds of discrepancies that Army investigators found were errors on maps. Metzler said other paper records show that most bodies are buried in the correct locations.
The cemetery has begun using those paper records to place headstones on previously unmarked graves, he said. Senators have challenged Metzler, asking how he can be certain that the headstones have been placed atop the correct graves. Committee members said they were shocked by accounts of chronic administrative and contracting mistakes at the cemetery.
-- Aaron Davis and Michael E. Ruane
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