Monday, March 14, 2005

Two Shots, Two Feet, Reload

How many wounds can Nebraska inflict on itself in one day? We guess the only practial limit is the amount of ammunition available. First the state offers a management job to a man with a well-know past problem. A nationwide firestorm ensues, and the offer is abruptly withdrawn.
Lincoln "LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The state of Nebraska made - and then abruptly took back - a job offer to a man convicted of murdering Dian Fossey, the American wildlife researcher whose work in Africa was the subject of the movie 'Gorillas in the Mist,'

The Health and Human Services System announced Monday that Wayne Richard McGuire had been hired as program director of a mental health office.

The offer was withdrawn, however, after The Associated Press reported McGuire was found guilty in absentia in Rwanda in the 1985 slaying of Fossey, who was hacked to death at a jungle camp in Rwanda.

McGuire returned to the United States, which does not have an extradition agreement with Rwanda, before being convicted. He is presently working for a mental health agency in Oklahoma.

'She was murdered. I was not involved,' McGuire told the AP Monday before the job was rescinded."
State officials claimed the head of the agency and other committe members were unaware of Maguire's background, although according to an earlier report the agency did know before the hiring:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "McGuire, who most recently worked for a mental health agency in Oklahoma, told The Associated Press that his conviction did not come up during the interview process. And HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said the state agency knew of the conviction and was not troubled by it."
However, if the agency really did not know about this before the hiring, that suggests there are severe flaws in the hiring process. It was not exactly a secret:
Lincoln "HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said that when the hiring was announced at a meeting last week, an unknown person inside or outside the agency did an Internet search on McGuire and raised questions about his past to the HHS official in charge of the hiring, Richard DeLiberty.

She said DeLiberty notified members of the HHS cabinet, who ordered him to further investigate the matter.

DeLiberty interviewed people familiar with the political strife in Rwanda at the time of the murder and determined that the conviction was 'not valid,' Osterman said.

In a news release issued late Monday, the agency said it rescinded the offer because McGuire did not disclose his conviction on his application form or during his job interview."
A communication problem was cited as the reason the offer went through despite the known problems that were not a problem. Now Nebraska withdraws the offer based on McGuire not revealing things the state knew about, didn't ask about, and decided were not a problem in making the offer. Just so we're clear on that.

Meanwhile back in Oklahoma:
"Teresa Peden, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Oklahoma, where McGuire currently works, said McGuire has an excellent reputation on the job. He has worked for the organization since 2003 and had given notice that he would quit to take the Nebraska job. Peden said she has made no decision about McGuire's future employment."
So now McGuire is apparently in employment limbo.

It was foolish of McGuire to try to finesse this in the interview process, but there are plenty of reasons to doubt the veracity of the murder conviction in absentia under the Rwandan "justice system." McGuire hasn't been in hiding or using an assumed identity. There's no chance he'll be extradited to Rwanda or face any charges in the US for Fossey's death.
"Fossey, 53, was found slashed to death Dec. 27, 1985, in her remote camp on the slopes of Rwanda's Mount Visoke, a 12,175-foot dormant volcano, where she lived among endangered mountain gorillas.

McGuire, then a 34-year-old doctoral candidate from the University of Oklahoma, was Fossey's research assistant at the time of her death. He was the only other foreigner at her Karisoke Research Center. A native tracker fired months earlier by Fossey also was charged in her death. He died in a Rwandan jail.

A three-judge panel in Rwanda said that McGuire, who returned to the United States before the investigation into Fossey's murder was completed, killed her to gain access to her research on mountain gorillas."
We have no way of knowing whether or not McGuire is guilty, but under the circumstances we believe he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Thus, it was not inappropriate to offer him the job, given his other qualifications. Not making the offer could also be justified.

What's impossible to justify is what actually transpired. Either the state should have withheld the offer in the first place, or it should have been prepared for the fallout and ready to deal with it. Instead Nebraska made the offer, then cut and ran when things got rough, leaving McGuire to fend for himself with no job at all.

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