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Air Force Mortuary Official Resigns Amid Scandal

One of three officials accused of mismanaging the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., and of retaliating against three whistle-blowers, has resigned.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency, said Friday that Quinton Keel had resigned and that it is in touch with Air Force officials about their final decisions on disciplinary action against the two other accused officials.

The Air Force issued a statement saying only that Keel "has left federal service" after serving as survivor assistance program manager at the Dover mortuary. Keel had previously served as director of the mortuary division at Dover.

Keel did not immediately return a telephone message left at his Delaware home on Friday.

In November 2011, the Office of Special Counsel issued a report accusing Keel and two other supervisors of "gross mismanagement" at the Dover facility, where small body parts of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan were lost on two occasions.

The Air Force said at the time that it took disciplinary action against, but did not fire, the two civilian supervisors — Keel and Trevor Dean — as well as Col. Robert Edmondson, who commanded the Dover mortuary at the time of the incidents.

Edmondson was given a letter of reprimand, denied a job commanding a unit at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and barred from future command assignments. Dean and Keel took a cut in pay and were moved to non-supervisory jobs at Dover. All three have declined to comment publicly on the matter.

In January, the Office of Special Counsel said it had concluded that three Dover supervisors had retaliated against the whistle-blowers who had disclosed misconduct at Dover. It did not identify the three, but others have said they are Keel, Dean and Edmondson.

The Office of Special Counsel said it will release its report on the alleged retaliation in mid-March.

"The government needs to listen to employees who come forward with serious allegations of wrongdoing," Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement. "And it needs to take disciplinary action when supervisors suppress or punish whistle-blowers. Failure to do so sends a chilling message."

One of the Dover whistle-blowers, James Parsons, told The Associated Press on Friday that he was disappointed that Keel was allowed to resign.

"I believe he should have been terminated," Parsons said. "I hate to see anybody lose their job, but I think it was warranted."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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