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Posted at 12:08 PM ET, 07/29/2010

Ex-Arlington Cemetery deputy takes the 5th

By Washington Post editors

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

By Washington Post editors  | July 29, 2010; 12:08 PM ET
 
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Comments

Everytime a black is involved there is a problem. Whay is that?

Maybe its the education? Maybe its giving preference to the non qualified who think their qualified.

Posted by: dann-o1 | July 29, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Higginbothan pleading the fifth is no surprise. There is no explaining away the millions spent on worthless contracts, but it would be interesting to know if he pleads the fifth because he awarded these contracts to friends, family, or other associates. We continue to offer our help.
http://www.cemops.com

Posted by: broberts3 | July 29, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

This happens *all the time.* More often than not, our tax-supported federal civil servants use their job-time to text on their Blackberry phones, sell their personal items on eBay, update their Facebook page, correspond with their friends and family over email - you name it, it's being done - anything BUT work. Federal employees in more influential positions, like Thurman Higginbotham (who was in that job *FOR YEARS*) have *stolen* and frivolously squirreled away BILLIONS in federal contract money for their own personal use and for the friends to which those contracts were awarded. I know people who *personally* interacted with Mr. Higginbotham for years and found him to be a shady character (he actually pretended to be one of the Tuskegee Airmen - how do you do that when you're not even 70 years old???) - totally consistent with the portrait of the criminal we see under investigation today.

Our federal elected officials need to do more of this kind of investigative work in every office, every department, in every bureau. I'd bet money that our deficit would disappear if we only could eliminate this *massive* kind of *criminal* activity happening right under our noses.

Posted by: loribezell | July 30, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

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