d) Perspectives of minority agents
Despite finding that some minorities had been personally invited to attend Roundups, our investigation discovered a large gulf between the perceptions of Roundup leaders and those of minority agents as to whether minorities were generally invited or welcome to attend. Furthermore, because Larry Stewart and Curtis Cooper publicly alleged that they were never invited to attend a Roundup, their claims merit specific attention. A discussion of the general perceptions of minority agents follows thereafter.
(i) Larry Stewart
At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Larry Stewart testified that he was never invited to the Roundup. Stewart also testified, however, that in the early 1980s a supervisor in the Atlanta ATF office walked into an open office area and announced to the entire assembly of agents, including Stewart, that the Roundup invitations had arrived and everyone who wanted to go should let him know. Stewart's belief that he was never invited, notwithstanding the supervisor's statement announcing the availability of invitations, must have been predicated on the notion that one could not attend a Roundup unless personally handed a flier. This type of general announcement, however, was the rule, not the exception to the invitation process. Particularly in the early years when Stewart was stationed in Atlanta, individual invitations were not sent; rather, Rightmyer mailed fliers to offices for general distribution. If Stewart had indicated that he was interested in attending, he would have been given a flier to fill out. He said no one banned him from attending or said he was unwelcome. Because he was not interested in attending, he did not ask for a flier or make any comment to his supervisor.
In evaluating Stewart's allegation, the character of the Roundup should not be overlooked. People went with friends to spend a weekend drinking, camping, and socializing. [ / The unusual nature of this event, a private camping trip with a quasi-public law enforcement function, highlights a central area of controversy regarding this event. If it were a completely private event, whether or not the organizers chose to invite minorities would be wholly their business, just as whether an individual invited minorities to a party at their home or to a child's wedding would be no one else's business. Once this event billed itself as something more and became essentially open to all comers and was intended to form and develop professional relationships, the intentional exclusion of particular segments of society would be improper and subject to investigation by government agencies. The fact remains, however, that the event in many attendees' minds was a private event and thus, whether appropriate or not, social patterns of association appear to have had a major influence on actual attendance. ] Virtually all of the people who attended the Roundup did so with close friends. If particular individuals did not socialize with one another outside the workplace, it was unlikely they would personally encourage each other to join them at the Roundup. Indeed, some interviewees said they were very careful about who they invited to the Roundup because they knew how certain people behaved after drinking. It was beyond the scope of this investigation to ascertain the personal relationship between Stewart and his colleagues and whether his colleagues would ordinarily extend a personal invitation to Stewart for such an event. However, we found no concerted effort either to exclude or to include Stewart. [ / We recognize that the lack of a social relationship may in turn be the result of personal racial biases of the individuals in the office or of the law enforcement agency in which they work. ]
Stewart also believed that he personally and blacks generally were not welcome because of a conversation he overheard. A regular attendee and MOB apparently said he would not be going to another Roundup. Upon hearing this, Stewart approached the man and announced that he (Stewart) thought he might attend the next year's Roundup. The man warned Stewart that he would not want to do that. When Stewart asked why, the man merely replied, "You don't want to do that." Stewart interpreted this to mean that he would not be welcome there because of his race.
This person confirmed the essence of this conversation, in which he had told Stewart that he would not be returning to the Roundup unless things "straighten up." Events at the 1990 Roundup, such as the racist sign and KKK skit, led him to advise Stewart not to attend the Roundup and to decide that he himself would not be returning. [ / This person subsequently returned in 1991 after speaking with Rightmyer who had agreed to a need to get the Roundup back to its fundamental principle of law enforcement liaison. The witness told us further that when he returned to the 1991 Roundup there was a business meeting attended by ten to fifteen leaders of the Roundup who all expressed concern about "getting back to fundamentals" at the Roundup. They asked everyone at this meeting to let people know that racist activities would not be tolerated. He also told us that Rightmyer subsequently addressed the entire crowd at that Roundup and said everyone was welcome at the Roundup and racism would not be tolerated. We heard about this speech from a number of other participants as well. This person said, however, he never again took a leadership role in the Roundup. ] He said that after the 1990 Roundup he had written a letter to Rightmyer chastising him for allowing the Roundup to "get out of hand." [ / This individual told us he had kept a copy of the letter until his retirement from federal law enforcement in February 1995. Unfortunately, at that time, perceiving no further need for the letter, it was destroyed. Although Rightmyer recalled having a conversation with this individual regarding these events, he did not recall receiving a letter and did not have a copy of it. ]
Based on the totality of the circumstances, this incident does not demonstrate an institutional practice of discouraging or deterring attendance by minorities, although Stewart's interpretation of the conversation, in addition to his perceptions about the invitation process, may have reasonably led him to conclude the worst about the Roundup. First, the conversation indicates that some events occurred in 1990 which were contrary to this person's previous experiences at the 1980 through 1989 Roundups. Second, in evaluating this person's intent, it is significant that he had spent some time during his career investigating Klan activities and had received death threats as a result of this investigation. He told us that because of this experience he has "a lot of hatred for the KKK," a view consistent with his reaction to the events at the 1990 Roundup. In light of this background, this person's decision to go to the 1991 Roundup suggests a belief that the 1990 events were an aberration, and not the norm. Finally, the person intended to send a message to Stewart about his race based on the person's experiences at the 1990 Roundup. Stewart got that message. Thus, even though the speaker's intent was formed by
specific, abberational events at the 1990 Roundup, the message he conveyed to Stewart was understandably perceived by Stewart in even stronger terms.
We asked this individual, however, whether he had invited Stewart to attend a Roundup either prior to the events which caused him to warn Stewart not to attend or subsequent to his receiving reassurances from Rightmyer that the 1990 events would not be repeated. He admitted that he had never invited Stewart to join him at a Roundup, with the rejoinder that Stewart had never invited him to a NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives) conference. Regardless of whether this person's remarks to Stewart discouraging him from attending a Roundup were intended to reflect merely the racial ugliness of the 1990 Roundup, and not the Roundup generally, this conversation appeared to have exacerbated Stewart's racial distrust of the Roundup.
(ii) Curtis Cooper
Curtis Cooper similarly testified that he had never been invited to a Roundup. Rightmyer, however, claimed he invited Cooper. [ / Beginning in April 1985, Cooper served as the ASAC of ATF's Nashville office and thus for a time was Rightmyer's supervisor. ] Although this conflict is irreconcilable, one possible resolution involves their starkly different perceptions of what constituted an invitation. Cooper appeared to be of the view that a personal written invitation was necessary, whereas Rightmyer, and hundreds of others familiar with the Roundup, realized that invitations were often no more formal than one person saying to another, "Hey, you might like to go with us sometime." Those interested in going then asked for a copy of the flier and signed up. Thus, Rightmyer may have orally invited Cooper, which he believed sufficient to constitute an invitation, while Cooper believed that the absence of a written invitation meant he had not genuinely been invited.
(iii) Minority agents generally
Although the specific experiences of Stewart and Cooper do not support their broadly stated claims that the Roundup institutionally excluded minorities, we tested further their perception that invitations by and large were directed to white agents only. As one means of examining this possibility we interviewed seventy-one employees, both black and white, in Department of Justice offices located in the area from which the majority of Roundup attendees came: Knoxville, Atlanta, and Birmingham. We also spoke to as many non-white persons as possible who had been identified as receiving personal invitations to attend a Roundup. Finally, we reviewed the statements of minority Treasury agents interviewed by Treasury OIG. All told, we considered the statements of sixty-eight blacks and eighteen other non-white persons in an effort to determine the actual and perceived Roundup invitation policy.
The evidence establishes that invitations in fact were not directed to white agents only; many minority agents were invited to attend a Roundup, either by people in their own office or by others with whom they worked in law enforcement. We found no evidence that invitations were given freely to white agents in these offices while black agents were excluded.
Virtually all of the minority agents employed by agencies other than ATF who had heard of the Roundup prior to July 1995 reported that they had specifically been invited to attend or felt they could have attended if they wanted to. A few minority officers, however, did not take an invitation to attend seriously because they perceived the event as exclusively for whites and were concerned they would not feel welcome. One city police officer declined an invitation from a white officer by saying he knew that once they arrived and everyone began drinking, people would look at him and wonder what he was doing there.
Significantly, the vast majority of blacks aware of the Roundup who perceived that they had not been invited to attend and were not welcome were employed by ATF. These same individuals viewed the Roundup as an ATF event, perceived ATF itself to be a racist organization, and believed that their white co-workers were racist. Agents in other agencies who did not view their agencies or their co-workers as racist did not ascribe any racial intolerance to the Roundup. It became clear, therefore, that a person's individual law enforcement experience, rather than any specific knowledge about the Roundup, had a significant impact on whether the Roundup was perceived as a whites-only event.
Furthermore, Larry Stewart and Curtis Cooper's perceptions that they were not welcome and that the Roundup intentionally excluded them were not universal. Cordell Malone, for example, testified that from the time he joined ATF he had been invited to attend Roundups by a number of agents in his office and had looked forward to going. Malone's invitations were particularly significant because several came from persons who had attended a number of Roundups and were active in organizing them. A black IRS agent reported that Rightmyer repeatedly made efforts to persuade him to attend the Roundup, but he did not attend because he did not wish to be the only minority attendee at such an event. Other minority agents and civilians also reported perceiving that they were welcome to attend.