Ex-U.N. Officer Sues U.S. Firm Over Dismissal
Lawsuit Alleges Retaliation for Reporting Co-Workers’ Sexual Misconduct in Bosnia
By Colum Lynch
The Washington Post
Saturday, June 23, 2001; Page A20
UNITED NATIONS, June 22 — A former U.N. police officer today filed a civil lawsuit in Britain against a major U.S. contractor, alleging she was fired for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in Bosnia by her fellow officers.
Kathryn Bolkovac, 40, a former U.N. human rights investigator from Lincoln, Neb., sued DynCorp Aerospace Co., the British subsidiary of U.S.-based DynCorp Inc., in South Hampton’s Employment Tribunal on charges of wrongful dismissal, sexual discrimination and violation of Britain’s whistle-blower laws.
Bolkovac said the Reston-based company, which hires U.S. officers to serve in U.N. missions around the world, laid her off in April because she constantly reported allegations that U.N. officers patronized sex clubs and participated in sexual trafficking.
“I was driven out because I was outspoken on this issue,” Bolkovac said today in a telephone interview. “I expected some action to be taken, but accountability at DynCorp and the IPTF [International Police Task Force] is basically zero. There is nobody that can step in and say, ‘Let’s get to the bottom of this.’ “
U.S. and DynCorp officials dispute the charges.
They said Bolkovac was fired because she falsified work documents, claiming hundreds of dollars in unwarranted per-diem expenses.
She also took leave without permission to attend her daughter’s state basketball championship game in Nebraska.
She acknowledged that the leave was denied by headquarters but said that the dispute over the per diem expenses was the result of a bureaucratic mix-up and that she never intended to cheat the United Nations.
It is the second lawsuit filed against DynCorp in a year by an employee claiming to have been punished for uncovering wrongdoing.
Ben D. Johnston, an aircraft mechanic who was hired by DynCorp in 1998 to repair U.S. military helicopters in Tuzla, Bosnia, sued in Fort Worth in August, contending that DynCorp discharged him because he cooperated with a U.S. Army investigation into allegations that DynCorp employees illegally purchased weapons and engaged in sexual slavery in Bosnia.
The suits have cast a spotlight on a company that has supported American national security goals around the globe for decades. And they raise questions about the accountability of contract workers who engage in criminal activities while conducting business for the government.
DynCorp officials said they fired eight employees serving in Tuzla between 1999 and 2000.
The workers were the subject of Bosnian and U.S. military investigations into allegations that they purchased women and weapons and consorted with organized-crime figures.
One of the employees was exonerated. None faced criminal prosecution in the United States.
“The notion that a company such as DynCorp would turn a blind eye to illegal behavior by our employees is incomprehensible,” Charlene A. Wheeless, a DynCorp spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We encourage our employees to be proactive in reporting inappropriate behavior and commend those who follow our procedures by reporting it.”
But, she added, “There is no jurisdictional authority to prosecute American civilians for crimes committed on foreign soil.”
She said it was unfair to blacken the company’s reputation because a few employees “behaved inexcusably.”
Johnston, who filed the first lawsuit, said in an interview this week that his supervisor and several co-workers were regular customers at Bosnian brothels.
Frustrated that his efforts to stop the illicit trade failed to yield results, he turned to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, which conducted a sting, obtaining weapons, a pornographic video featuring a DynCorp supervisor and admission by another employee that he had bought a Romanian woman and an Uzi.
Although the investigation confirmed many of Johnston’s allegations, a former DynCorp employee accused him of trying to sell weapons to co-workers.
DynCorp officials said Johnston became an Army informer to seek revenge against the company, which had planned to end his $120,000 contract.
Bolkovac said her efforts to uncover similar sexual crimes by U.N. police, military personnel and foreign diplomats cost her job.
Bolkovac said a Bosnian narcotics officer alleged in August that an American police officer had “bought a woman for a thousand dollars and also assisted in forging her documents.”
She also came across evidence that a NATO soldier had been stopped by local police with four Moldavian women in the car.
Questioned by U.N. police a week later, “their statements indicated they were brought across the border illegally, sold and forced into prostitution,” Bolkovac said.
In an e-mail to more than 50 people — including Jacques Klein, the U.N. secretary general special representative in Bosnia — Bolkovac described the plight of trafficked women and noted that U.N. police, NATO troops and international humanitarian employees were regular customers.
Within days, she said, she was told she would be reassigned by Michael Stiers, the top U.S. police officer in Bosnia.
Stiers, who has since left the United Nations, said in an interview that Bolkovac was reassigned because she had behaved unprofessionally in her quest to help trafficked women and had lost sight of the police’s main priority: ending the ethnic violence that threatened to unravel the country’s fragile peace.
Ex-U.N. Officer Sues U.S. Firm Over Dismissal