Literary Heroes

Bunnatine Greenhouse

by Joy Wolf

Bunny Greenhouse (portrait by Robert Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth)
Bunny Greenhouse (portrait by Robert Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth)

Bunnatine Greenhouse, the former chief contracting officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was demoted after exposing misuse of power and special interests in a $7 billion no-bid contract for work by Halliburton in Iraq. Shortly before the war began, Kellogg, Brown and Root, a division of Halliburton was awarded a no-bid "emergency" contract, which was supposed to last anywhere from two to five years. KBR builds refineries, oil fields, pipelines and chemical plants. Greenhouse suggested the "emergency contract" should be for no more than one year, and that other contractors, large and small alike should be allowed to bid for the work. She stood firm in her convictions, and was a lone voice of dissent in her department over this one company with obvious political connections receiving favor.

In 1998, Halliburton merged with Dresser Industries, which included KBR. Prescott Bush had been a director of Dresser Industries and his son, former president George H.W. Bush worked for Dresser Industries in several positions. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton and retired from the company during the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign with a severance package worth approximately $36 million. Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton Company from 1995 to 2000. Greenhouse also complained that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office took control of every aspect of Halliburton's $7 billion Iraqi oil infrastructure contract. She was rebuked when she initially objected to the alleged improprieties, but eventually found an audience in Congress. It wasn't long after that when she was removed from the Senior Executive Service (SES) and stripped of her top-secret clearance. The U.S. Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pentagon's Inspector General opened up criminal investigations based not only on her allegations of favoritism but from other sources as well.

Greenhouse testified: "I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career." The investigation addressed alleged price gouging and overbilling of the federal government as well as awarding a generous no-bid contract to this particular division of Halliburton. A Pentagon audit found that KBR overbilled the government $61 million for fuel in Iraq, but the audit was quelled when the Corps granted KBR a waiver from explaining any discrepancies. KBR alleged that an Iraqi subcontractor dictated the price. The U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. awarded Greenhouse $970,000 in full restitution of lost wages, compensatory damages and legal fees.

"I hope that the plight I suffered prompts the administration and Congress to move dedicated civil servants from second-class citizenry and to finally give federal employees the legal rights they need to protect the legal trust, " she said in a statement. In Greenhouse's dismissal letter, Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock said her removal was "based on her performance and not in retaliation for any disclosures of alleged improprieties she may have made. She was demoted and banished from the Senior Executive Service. "They stuck me in a little cubicle down the hall," she said. "Let there be no mistake, I was downgraded in performance and removed because I did my job too well."

"She was aware she was taking considerable risk," says Marty Linsky, author and professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, who taught Greenhouse in a leadership seminar a few years ago. "She cared a lot about the values she believed in and was prepared to take risks that a lot people would not have." "Regardless, I still believe that integrity in government is not an option, but an obligation," Greenhouse said.

Page created on 3/17/2016 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 3/17/2016 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

National Whistle Blowers Center - Victory for Bunny Greenhouse - Bunnatine Greenhouse stood alone in opposing the approval of a highly improper muti-billion dollar no bid contract to Halliburton for the reconstruction of Iraq.
Bunny Greenhouse - portrait by Robert Shetterly from Americans Who Tell the Truth