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168 Days: Mediation

By Ken Snyder

As information was released and discovered, I found out that the court system has mechanisms in place that have good intentions, but they don't always wind up accomplishing anything. In order to try to alleviate the congestion of court cases the Federal court system insists that parties in civil cases participate in pre-trial mediation. Ms. Leeds notified me of this requirement on 24 May 2013. At first, the meeting was to take place at McAnany's offices -- this did not set well with me, as I already had my perception of Wonnell and Sieve-Wilson and it wasn't a good one. The last place I wanted to meet these two (and whoever BPU would send) was in the opposing counsel's offices. The timing of the meeting as well as the place changed as preparations were made for my deposition and more information was exchanged; Wonnell, Sieve-Wilson and BPU seemed to be dragging their feet on getting information to Ms. Leeds and she insisted that no deposition would take place before all her requests were answered. Once they decided to start complying with our requests it was agreed that the mediation meeting would take place on 19 July 2013 in the mediator's offices in Kansas City, Missouri. One other thing I wasn't aware of is that I had to pay a portion of the mediator's fee for his time.

In the instructions, "business casual attaire" was requested to be worn. For me, that would have to be my Air Force uniform -- my normal "business attaire" was a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. My Air Force uniform would also be my court attaire, and I fully expected opposing counsel to object to it, but with the budget we were living on the luxury of a civilian suit and tie were out of the question.

When I arrived at the mediator's office I had some time to sit and think about how far this whole process had come. From BPU's so-called "ethics commission," the DOL's fiasco of an investigation, countless days investigating what happened and what could be done about it, numerous attorneys all but ignoring my case, meeting with Ms. Leeds and her taking on my case, filing the case, winning a notable decision, a couple of rejected offers to settle this before now and finally we would be meeting face-to-face. There were so many unanswered questions, and I hoped to at least get closer to knowing what really happened.

It turns out that we would only be in the same room for a short amount of time. What happens is the mediator meets with one side, then meets with the other side in a separate room. The mediator shuttles back and forth in an attempt to come to a resolution acceptable to both parties. To start, Ms. Leeds and I were escorted to the room where Wonnell, Sieve-Wilson, Johnson, Clark and DeLeon were waiting. It was all I could do to keep from letting out some Marine Corps-style comments about the collection of cowards in the room, and it made me sick to my stomach to have to shake Wonnell's hand -- especially after reading his words over the past three years. I also noted that they came prepared with boxes of files -- you would have thought they were going into a murder trial, I couldn't imagine anything they had that would have been more damaging than what I already had against them.

After this rather uncomfortable portion of the meeting was over, Ms. Leeds and I retired to a separate room and awaited the mediator. We had time to discuss what was happening, and the topic naturally came to what we would "settle" for. I had entertained ideas of settlements, both monetary and non-monetary, but one thing that was always front-and-center was the fact that no matter the outcome this was always going to be with me from now on: there would be far too many reminders on a daily basis, they were not "going away" and neither was I. But for the sake of offers, we arrived at a monetary amount and gave this to the mediator. It would address my losses to date, pay Ms. Leeds for her work and give us a little security for the near-term, but it would not make up the complete difference until I would have retired from BPU and it would do nothing to remove what had happened or alleviate the daily reminders going forward.

It didn't take him long to return with a rejection of our offer. He mentioned where they hinted at for an amount, and it was about as insulting as Mr. "I see a trend" had been to me over three years ago. There was no need in taking up any more of the mediator's time, it was obvious that BPU and their minions had no intention of negotiating in good faith. They knew they had been caught red-handed, they had provided the evidence that proved as much and still they were hell-bent on denial.

Between the Summer and Fall semesters at KCK Community College I had the opportunity to spend some training (duty) days with the 190th in Topeka. While I was there, Ms. Leeds received more of the files from Wonnell and Sieve-Wilson that she requested. The files were huge, even on a computer CD. To assist in the case I volunteered to review them and make a report on what I found. There were thousands of pages that meant absolutely nothing, but I did find more than a few that were especially informational. I sent the reports to Ms. Leeds, and she immediately recognized that some of the files were things they should not have sent to her. Needless to say I was told to destroy the files I had, and they were more than happy to send "revised" files. I went back over these files as well, and made new reports about their contents. Even then the files they sent answered many questions, and posed several more. I can't talk about what I saw because it was "confidential" (much like the difference in the DOL's copy and my copy of my own personnel file) but suffice it to say the evidence against BPU, Clark and Johnson was piling up quickly.


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