Good O' Boy Roundup Report - March, 1996

I. Introduction

For the past sixteen years, the Good O' Boy Roundup (Roundup) has been held in rural eastern Tennessee. A private gathering of federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel, the Roundup began as a one-night campout in 1980 for fifty-eight people, most of whom were employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Gene Rightmyer, at that time the Resident Agent-in-Charge of the ATF Office in Knoxville and now retired from ATF, conceived of and organized the Roundup. It was touted as an opportunity for law enforcement officers to get together and to "let your hair down."

As the Roundup grew in popularity, the proportion of ATF agents in attendance (and federal law enforcement agents generally) began to decline while the number of state and local officers and non-law enforcement guests dramatically rose. Thus, although the proportion of federal agents at the first Roundup was approximately 75 percent, in 1995 approximately 10 percent of attendees worked for federal agencies. Indeed, in 1995, nearly as many Canadians attended as federal employees.

Participants engaged in a variety of activities at the Roundup, which expanded over the years to become a four-day event. Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River was a principal attraction. Attendees also played golf and other sports, swapped stories, and drank vast quantities of beer. Some participants brought
T-shirts to swap or sell.

Over time, the Roundup evolved institutionally. To accommodate the need for greater organization, Rightmyer recruited persons to assist with registration, cooking, and activities. The Roundup also featured various competitions, such as "Redneck of the Year" and "Ugliest Good O' Boy" contests, which involved performances by contestants. In some years, the Redneck of the Year contest was notable for its racially insensitive content. More frequently, the behavior of contestants was juvenile or utterly tasteless. Each year the Roundup was different, from the persons who participated to the activities in which they engaged.

During these sixteen years the Roundup drew little public attention, despite being fairly well known within the ranks of the ATF and a significant portion of the law enforcement community in the Southeastern United States. This public anonymity ended on July 11, 1995, when the Washington Times printed a story charging that the Roundup was a "whites-only" law enforcement event featuring racist signs, racist skits, racist T-shirts, and "nigger hunting licenses." That same day WJLA-TV (Channel 7) in Washington, D.C., carried a similar story and aired a portion of a home video showing a sign that read, "Nigger check point." The videotape was alleged to have been taken at the 1995 Roundup. These media stories generated a storm of public criticism of the Roundup and concern about alleged off-duty racist activities of federal law enforcement officers.

On July 12, 1995, the Deputy Attorney General contacted the heads of Department of Justice (DOJ) components and requested that they determine whether any DOJ employees had attended any Roundups. On July 13, the Deputy Attorney General asked the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate DOJ employee participation in the Roundup.

On July 21, 1995, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing into the alleged conduct of federal law enforcement officers at the Roundup. Certain witnesses at the hearing repeated allegations that these annual events were replete with racist activities. Additionally, the Committee released to the OIG affidavits in which persons alleged that rapes and other crimes occurred at the Roundup.

Since July 1995, the OIG has conducted a broad and thorough investigation into all of the allegations -- whether raised in the media, at the Senate hearing, or by witnesses interviewed as part of the investigation. During the course of this investigation the OIG interviewed hundreds of witnesses and collected a wealth of testimonial, documentary, and physical evidence. This report presents the results of our investigation.

The report is divided into seven sections. Section II summarizes the principal allegations of misconduct at the Roundup and sketches the investigative steps undertaken to identify participants in the Roundup, to ascertain the truth of the allegations, and to determine the parties responsible for allegations proved to be true. Section III presents a brief history of the Roundup, describing the development, structure, and significant events of the Roundup. Section IV contains a year-by-year chronology of the Roundup, with a description of the allegations of racism and criminal misconduct; the evidence gathered on each allegation; and our findings of whether the specific alleged conduct in fact occurred and, if so, who was responsible for it. Because our investigation found that DOJ employees were not significant participants in the activities of the Roundup and did not participate in racially objectionable or criminal behavior, the focus of Section IV is on non-DOJ employees. Verification of some racially insensitive conduct in particular years, however, provides a context for assessing the conduct of DOJ employees in participating in the Roundup. Section V details the OIG's specific findings with respect to each DOJ employee who participated in the various Roundups and describes the extent to which each such employee had knowledge of the types of conduct described in earlier parts of the report. [/ The names of the DOJ employees who attended the Roundup are not disclosed in this section or elsewhere in the report. Their names will be furnished to the head of the DOJ component by which they are employed. Our balancing of the privacy interests of the individual employees versus the public's right to know as much as possible about the Roundup has led us to describe in detail the experiences of the DOJ personnel who attended the Roundup and to identify the DOJ component with which they were or are affiliated. We do not believe that naming them publicly serves any valid purpose. We have named those individuals whose identities have appeared in published reports about the Roundup or the allegations regarding the Roundup or who have been identified in public testimony regarding these events. ] This section also discusses the extent of DOJ management knowledge of the Roundup. Section VI outlines the OIG's recommendations regarding discipline of DOJ Roundup participants. This section also proposes education and training for DOJ employees regarding their off-duty conduct. Section VII reports the OIG's overall conclusions regarding its investigation of the Roundup.