By AuxBeacon News Contributor
This is a copy of a letter sent by Pineda to Congress:
I am sorry to take time out of your busy schedule, but I have a situation that needs your attention.
My name is Tony Pineda and I am the National Commander of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a Federally chartered non-profit volunteer organization which also performs missions for the U.S. Air Force. I’m writing this letter to you because the Board of Governors (BOG) that was set up by Congress a few years ago to ensure cooperation between CAP and the US Air Force, suspended me from office in Aug, 2007. They have misused and abused the powers they were given and there is no one to oversee them and take them to task for these injustices. Members inside the organization who have recently questioned their tactics have been fired and they have instilled a fear of reprisal in the other CAP members. I will try to explain the situation as concisely as possible.
I have volunteered as a member of this organization for 19 years. I joined CAP because I wanted to give something back to this country that accepted me and my family when I came from Cuba in 1962 after my dad was released from prison there because of his involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion. My wife and children are also CAP members. I recently retired as a law enforcement officer with 35 years of experience, leaving my DROP program early to dedicate all my time to my last year serving as the National Commander for CAP.
This problem began in 1996, when I was the Florida Wing Commander and Gen Paul Bergman was the National Commander. Gen Bergman ordered me to pay a volunteer member $8,000.00 dollars for services as a contract employee out of a Florida Hospital District grant. I advised Gen Bergman that the payment would be a violation of Florida State Law and that I wouldn’t do it. Gen Bergman then fired me as the Florida Wing commander for not making the payment. I went back to the squadron level and worked my way back up to the position of National Commander two years ago.
In Dec. of 2006, an incident occurred at a training session in Florida, of which I had no involvement. This incident involved a CAP Testing officer named Ray Hayden, who made threats against the Fla Wing Vice commander by telling him that he was going to get an UZI and spray everybody. His incident was investigated by the CAP Inspector General’s (IG) office and he was put out of CAP. Hayden contacted me via email and asked me to stop the investigation. I checked with the IG’s office and advised Hayden that there was nothing I could do. He then threatened to tell them that he had taken some Air Force Staff and Command College tests for me back in 2002. It should be noted that these were courses and tests I took to further my knowledge and they weren’t required for my rank or any promotions I received.
The investigation into Hayden’s allegations against me by CAP began in Dec 2006, by the CAP – IG. I was informed in July 2006, that they had not found information to sustain the charges and they would be dropped. The normal procedure would have been to present the allegations to the National Board (which is made up of the wing and region commanders nationwide), where I would have had a chance to defend myself and then the board would determine if I should be suspended and the investigation initiated or if there was no merit to the allegations, it would have been dropped. This is delineated clearly in the CAP By Laws and Constitution. I am including that site for your review.
DISCRIMINATION: The precedence has been set that the above process occur when charges are filed against the National Commander. In three previous situations in which charges were filed against the national commanders, they were properly handled by the National Board, not the BOG. However, because Gen Bergman was on the BOG, he convinced them that they could suspend me and conduct a further investigation. In the previous situations, the one commander was Gen Bergman and he resigned before the National Board took him out of office. In a second situation, Gen Richard Bowling, who is now the Chairman of the BOG, had charges brought against him and they were presented to the National Board, where they were dismissed. The third situation involved my predecessor, Gen Wheless, who also resigned before the National Board heard the charges against him. In those situations, the BOG never got involved as they said it was the duty of the National Board. It should be noted that the other three national commanders are all white males and I am the only Hispanic commander.
VIOLATION OF RIGHTS: I was suspended telephonically at 11:00 pm, on the Sunday night, just a few days before our summer national convention in Atlanta, GA. I was advised at that time that I was to have no contact with any CAP members, except Gen Bowling. It’s clear they did not consider that my family members are all CAP members. I believe that violated my constitutional rights. I could have understood them saying not to discuss the issue, but no contact was unreasonable.
DENIED RIGHT TO COUNSEL: I contacted my attorney, Neal Poller, who has handled all my personal legal affairs for me for years and advised him of the situation. He told me he would handle it. He contacted CAP legal counsel and was told that it was a conflict of interest for him to represent me as he is a CAP member. He has never done any legal work for CAP and I could not see the conflict. He asked them to reconsider and they advised him a week later that they wouldn’t allow him to represent me. I have contacted other counsel; however, due to the cost I have waited to proceed with that.
I provided the BOG with a copy of the CAP By Laws and Constitution, Article 15, which shows the procedure for suspension and removal of the National Commander and Vice Commander. Their response was that US Code 10 supersedes that and as the governing body of CAP, they can do whatever they want to do. They have not provided me with any evidence of the charges and I have obtained a copy of the statement of Ray Hayden, which has no evidentiary value either. Hayden has a motive for making the allegations; however, I would have no motive to cheat on a test that I didn’t need to take in the first place. They have kept me in limbo for the past month and a half, still under the direction not to have contact with CAP members. They have caused a fear of reprisal among the general membership and the turmoil has not been good for the agency. They are removing from command all of the members who have been put there since I’ve been the commander.
In all fairness to me, as well as to the continued success of the CAP, someone who they have no control over needs to address this issue with the BOG and I am asking for your help in this matter.
– Tony Pineda