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6/2/2020 2:34:59 PM
Posted: 5/5/2003 7:02:43 AM EDT

In every sense of the word, retired Lt. Col. Harold
                            A. Fritz is a hero.

                            As a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in
                            January 1969, Fritz was commanding a small
                            reconnaissance convoy that was ambushed by a
                            company of North Vietnamese troops. With most of
                            his vehicles aflame, both of his command tracks and
                            their radios knocked out, and 23 of his 28 men dead
                            or wounded, Fritz led his four remaining troops
                            against some 200-odd enemy combatants. They
                            slugged it out for nearly six hours before an Army
                            tank company managed to receive a faint hand-held
                            radio call for help from the beleaguered force and
                            respond to drive off the enemy.

                            When the battle was over, Fritz's contingent was
                            battered but intact; the North Vietnamese,
                            meanwhile, had lost 170 men, and more than 20 were
                            captured. In the process, Fritz and his men were able
                            to save a follow-on supply convoy that was
                            transporting, among other things, thousands of
                            gallons of highly combustible aviation fuel. Had that
                            convoy been struck by the North Vietnamese,
                            American casualties would have been horrific.

                            Before leaving Vietnam, Fritz would be wounded
                            twice in combat and earn a Purple Heart with Oak
                            Leaf Cluster to go along with a Silver Star and
                            numerous other commendations.

                            He retired a lieutenant colonel after 27 years in the
                            Army, then brought his heroic performance with him
                            to his home state of Illinois, where he served since
                            1995 as a deputy director of the state's Department
                            of Veterans' Affairs. According to insiders, former
                            and current employees, during his eight-year tenure
                            Fritz managed to clean up much corruption within the
                            agency and improved its ability to perform its
                            function – assisting veterans. Among other
                            accomplishments, he created and planned the annual
                            American Ex-Prisoners of War Recognition Day,
                            which is held every April in Springfield.

                            But while the days of heated combat in the dank,
                            sweltering jungles of Vietnam are long over, these
                            days Fritz is still fighting, though a much different
                            kind of battle with a highly elusive and crafty enemy.
                            It is one few people ever win, even heroes with the
                            nation's highest military honor.

                            It's a battle against bureaucracy and other
                            entrenched powerful political machinations. That's
                            how Fritz and many of his comrades see it.

                            For much of his tenure at Veterans' Affairs, Fritz
                            worked for John Johnston, a former VA director. But
                            early on, he said, friction developed between them to
                            the point that, in 1999, Johnston even went to state
                            police officials claiming Fritz was trying to assassinate
                            him. The charges were never substantiated, and Fritz
                            initiated a lawsuit against Johnston over the
                            allegations, though an appeals court dismissed his suit
                            last week. (He says he's planning an appeal to the
                            state Supreme Court.)

                            Despite the legal battles and other problems between
                            them, however, Fritz says he always maintained a
                            public image of professionalism, deferring to Johnston
                            as director of the agency and continuing to work
                            hard to fulfill his duties to his veteran charges. His
                            co-workers and others who have had dealings with
                            him confirm that.



Link Posted: 5/5/2003 7:05:10 AM EDT
                            Finally, Johnston was replaced by Roy L. Dolgos,
                            who was hired in March. The new director pumped
                            Fritz for status reports on the agency and relied on
                            him to bring him up to date on problems and issues
                            that needed to be addressed.

                            The retired colonel said he told Dolgos of lingering
                            issues of past corruption when Johnston was still
                            director. Fritz also talked of discriminatory practices –
                            the hiring of non-veterans as well as outright racial
                            discrimination – within the agency under Johnston,
                            and "bid-rigging" at the Anna, Ill., veterans' home, in
                            which Johnston allegedly gave contracts for work
                            there to political allies and friends. And, charges the
                            Peoria, Ill., native, some former soldiers who were
                            residents at the state's veterans' homes were
                            cremated and their ashes placed in ammunition cans
                            for burial.

                            "This was all going on with taxpayers' money," Fritz
                            told WorldNetDaily in a wide-ranging interview.

                            Just when he thought things would finally settle
                            down for him at the office, Dolgos called him in April
                            15 and dropped a bomb on him.

                            "He said, 'You're fired, I have to let you go,'" said
                            Fritz. "Dolgos told me it was due to budget cuts." The
                            Medal of Honor recipient, however, believes the
                            firing was political.

                            Fritz says Dolgos fired him in an effort to cut back on
                            staff and save the department money, even though
                            other senior-level employees with fewer
                            responsibilities making more money have been
                            retained. Also, Fritz says Dolgos told him the decision
                            to let him go "came from the governor's office."
                            Finally, Fritz says he worked four years under
                            Johnston without a pay raise – though other
                            managers received annual increases – "as retaliation,"
                            he said.

                            That the governor's office would be involved is
                            possible, say some analysts. After all, they maintain,
                            Fritz was hired during a Republican governor's
                            tenure – Jim Edgar – and served another Republican,
                            George Ryan. The new governor of Illinois is
                            Democrat Rod Blagojevich.

                            "I'm sorry to see a Medal of Honor winner just get
                            cut out like that," Terry Woodburn, adjutant for the
                            American Legion State Headquarters in Bloomington,
                            told the Copley News Service. "It's a political job, and
                            unfortunately sometimes that comes with the job."

                            VA officials maintained his firing was due to fiscal

                            Fritz's firing "was a necessary cut due to our budget.
                            We're having a reduction in our administration,"
                            Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Tisdale said. She
                            said she couldn't comment on employees' pay scales
                            and had "no information" on the caliber of employee
                            Fritz was, but she added that another deputy
                            director, Dan Boatwright, also was let go "because of
                            budget concerns."

                            With a state deficit estimated at $5 billion for this year
                            and next, Blagojevich has ordered state agencies to
                            cut overhead by 10 percent, officials said.

                            "Like Illinois, many states face large budget deficits.
                            Many of those states have resorted to the traditional
                            methods of solving fiscal crises: raising taxes or
                            slashing spending in areas that matter most like
                            education, health care and public safety. I refuse to
                            submit to those tired, old solutions," Blagojevich
                            wrote in an April 27 letter posted on the governor's
                            website, urging residents to pressure lawmakers into
                            approving his budget. "Asking the taxpayers to bear
                            the burden of years of mismanagement and waste is
                            simply unfair. … Instead, our budget cuts over $1.3
                            billion in waste and inefficiency. …"

                            Fritz says he's all for curbing waste and inefficiency.
                            Indeed, he says that's what he was doing as the
                            state's deputy director for the VA.

                            Meanwhile, current employees of the department
                            backed many of Fritz's charges. They also said
                            Johnston handed out contracts at the agency's Anna,
                            Ill., veterans' home to former Gov. Ryan's friends.
                            Further, they corroborated Fritz's allegations that
                            non-veterans have been hired in management
                            positions, and that some harassment and
                            discrimination claims have occurred.

                            An internal audit of the department by Donald
                            Bullerman, chief auditor for the Illinois Auditor
                            General's office, found the evidence of veterans being
                            buried in ammunition cans. Fritz says the auditor told
                            Johnston about it, but the VA director did nothing
                            about it.

                            One senior department official who asked not to be
                            identified and who worked with Fritz directly said
                            employees in the Chicago office had filed complaints
                            of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. One
                            female employee, the senior official said, also claimed
                            retaliation by senior managers after she made her

                            The same official also confirmed Fritz's charges that a
                            number of non-veterans had been hired by Johnston,
                            even though the agency is supposed to give
                            preference in hiring to veterans.

Link Posted: 5/5/2003 7:06:48 AM EDT

                            Another current senior agency official, who
                            requested anonymity, said Johnston "and the
                            governor's office [under Ryan] worked out a
                            contract with a company, the Tutera Group," of
                            Kansas City, Mo. One of the players involved in that
                            contract, the official said, was Donald Udstuen, once
                            part of Ryan's "kitchen cabinet" of close advisers, who
                            was arraigned in May 2002 on a host of charges
                            involving racketeering, kickbacks and money

                            In separate indictments, federal authorities charged
                            Lawrence Warner with rigging bids and accepting
                            kickbacks for secretary of state contracts – while
                            Ryan was holding that office – for such goods and
                            services as vehicle registration validation stickers,
                            computer systems and building leases.

                            Warner, a friend of Ryan's, held no position in the
                            government but, records say, from 1991 to 1999 he
                            attended office meetings and directed secretary of
                            state personnel regarding agency operations.

                            Investigators said Udstuen shared in Warner's profits
                            and Alan Drazek, owner of American Management
                            Resources, laundered payments to Udstuen, a former
                            top lobbyist for the Illinois State Medical Society.

                            Udstuen eventually cooperated with the FBI and
                            secretly tape-recorded a telephone call between Ryan
                            and a confidant in April 2002 as part of the Operation
                            Safe Road probe, the Chicago Tribune reported. But
                            investigators could never directly link Ryan's office
                            with official malfeasance.

                            Last year, Ryan said of Udstuen and Warner, "I've
                            known [them] for 35 years. They're friends, no
                            question about it. And that would be all the more
                            reason that I'd be outraged if I thought they were
                            guilty of these charges."

                            The senior Veterans' Affairs official said Udstuen
                            "was to be used as a reference" in the Anna veterans'
                            home contract.

                            "This all represents mismanagement and theft on the
                            part of Johnston," Fritz said.

                            Several attempts to reach Johnston were

                            Paul Taplin, the agency's manger of grants and
                            records, spoke on the record about Fritz, describing
                            him as very capable individual who put his "heart and
                            soul" into the department.

                            "They let the wrong person go," Taplin told
                            WorldNetDaily. "I worked for Hal Fritz when he was
                            there, and as far as I'm concerned, they almost killed
                            the department."

                            "His heart and soul was into taking care of veterans,
                            or trying to, and it was just a little strange that they
                            would let him go over, they said, budgetary
                            restraints, when we have people there making more
                            money than him that don't have any responsibility,"
                            said Taplin, a 23-year Army veteran.

                            Others were equally complimentary.

                            "He's been our mainstay for the past two or three
                            years," Wesley Poore, a representative of the
                            American Ex-POW Springfield Area Chapter, told
                            Copley News Service.
Link Posted: 5/5/2003 10:00:35 AM EDT
Politics in Illinois? Why, what would Richard Daly think?     [}:D]
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