BY LINDA BENTLEY | JULY 7, 2010
Parker seeking $2 million from feds in abuse of process complaint
More a case of the pot calling the kettle black
PHOENIX – On Friday, Vernon Parker, one of 10 Republican candidates vying for the U.S. House of Representatives District 3 seat being vacated by Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the United States government for abuse of process and negligent supervision. Parker and his wife are asking for $2 million for “injuries sustained,” to include “past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future wages, financial damages, emotional harm and pain and suffering.”
The lawsuit was filed after the government failed to respond to Parker’s Sept. 18, 2009 Notice of Claim submitted on his behalf, pro bono, by former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton.
The complaint was also difficult to find since it is incorrectly captioned online as Parker v. Parker instead of Parker v. United States of America.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) terminated Parker’s company VBP Group, Inc. from eligibility in its 8(a) Business Development program. Parker claims the SBA “systematically engaged in a course of conduct to undermine his career and standing in the community.”
The SBA asserts Parker, in submitting his application, “falsely certified that he was not a federal employee” and according to USDA personnel records, he was employed as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) when he initially applied to the 8(a) program. As a government employee, Parker would have been prohibited from being awarded a government contract.
Further, it stated VBP submitted “invoices” that did not match bank record deposits and that the deposits represented one-third of the contract income reported by VBP.
Parker admitted he had no formal signed contract with the federal government and also said he created after-the-fact invoices for the payments he received, which were never submitted to USDA but were consistent with the format he used to bill his other clients.
Characterizing his payments from USDA as evidence of contract performance, he redacted the word “salary,” which Parker argued was “merely to protect personally identifiable information.”
A Dec. 16, 2008 letter from Joseph P. Loddo, SBA Associate Administrator, Office of Business Development, to Charlton regarding Parker’s termination from the 8 (a) BD program, said Parker “argues that the term salary has no legal meaning and the determination as to whether the payments were salary or payment for contract performance is based on the totality of the circumstances.”
While Loddo conceded some of the allegations as grounds for termination had been overcome, he said the evidence submitted in response to the SBA’s Letter of Intent to Terminate did not overcome SBA’s determination that the payments reported as evidence of contract performance were made to Parker in his individual capacity as a federal employee and its findings that the invoices and the transaction receipts were mischaracterized as evidence of VBP’s record of performance.
The OIG determined VBP’s acceptance into the 8(a) program was “highly unusual and constituted a deviation from SBA’s normal approval process.”
Records indicate VBP had only been in existence for four months and the only contract it had completed was for 11 days when the two-year requirement was waived.
Parker maintains the SBA has “subverted the 8(a) investigation and termination process to satisfy the SBA’s political agenda.”
The Notice of Claim provides a personal history of Parker and his “humble beginnings” as a child who born cross-eyed, had a speech impediment, was shipped across the country to live with relatives, including “a disabled family member who only had partial use of the right side of his body” and, at his grandmother’s house, “an uncle who nursed a severe heroin addiction.”
It goes on to say, “Around him, friends and family succumbed to drugs, disease and crime … a life lived among poverty, broken glass, police cars and violence.”
Sonoran News asked Charlton why Parker’s personal history, which almost sounds like the opening scene from the 1979 Steve Martin film “The Jerk,” was included in the claim as it seemingly had nothing to do with the issues contested by the SBA and only appeared to try to bolster Parker’s image as a victim.
“I couldn’t disagree with you more,” replied Charlton, who said it was to show that Parker, despite those disadvantages, pulled himself up by his bootstraps, went on to college and earned a law degree.
Charlton stated Parker has not been debarred from the SBA program, businesses are granted waivers from the two-year requirement all the time, and it all boils down to a “petty technicality” over whether Parker was an employee, an independent contractor or a consultant and called the SBA’s claim against Parker “one of the most egregious abuses of federal authority.”
A month or so ago, during a neighborhood Republican get-together, Attorney Sam Crump, who is also a primary candidate in District 3, said Vernon Parker pulled him aside afterward and whispered something to the effect, “Have you heard, Steven Moak was charged with sexual assault?”
When Crump confronted Moak about Parker’s allegation, he said Moak told him he’d heard the same rumor about himself that supposedly occurred back in his college days in Kentucky.
Another party contacted Sonoran News the following day, asking us to look into the allegations. We did and found nothing to substantiate Parker’s accusations.
What Crump also found interesting was, during an editorial board interview with a Phoenix newspaper, when asked if he supported affirmative action, Parker replied, “No.”
However, the entire premise of his SBA 8(a) BD application was to have VBP certified as a “Small Disadvantaged Business.”
More recently, during Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s birthday bash and fundraiser for J.D. Hayworth at the Silver Spur Saloon in Cave Creek, Sonoran News Publisher/Editor Don Sorchych was seated next to Parker.
Sorchych said Parker leaned over and asked, “Have you noticed there’s a two-year gap in Ben Quayle’s resume?”
Quayle is also one of the 10 District 3 Republican primary candidates.
Parker added, “He could have been in rehab for drugs or alcohol.”
Surprised, Sorchych responded, “Now that’s a stretch.”
Meanwhile, Barbara Espinoza, one of Parker’s supporters, says he is “the best candidate to replace Shadegg,” as he has been through FBI checks four to five times, vetted by the White House and confirmed by the Senate. She says Parker’s life is “an open book.”
In trying to encourage Sorchych to “get behind” Parker, Espinoza said, “I haven’t wanted to bring this up because it makes no difference to me how ‘tall’ he is. But think of the immediate national recognition for Arizona that we are not a racist state as we have been portrayed over SB 1070. Every Republican African American that has been elected in this last cycle has catapulted to national prominence as has their state. [Parker] would be the first black congressman from Arizona elected. Tons of good publicity for Arizona …”
In a letter to the editor published in a Paradise Valley newspaper, Former Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jini Simpson, a Parker supporter, wrote, “Faced with an unprecedented financial situation, Vernon Parker was able to bring people together and with the town manager, by working in small groups, devise ‘best practices.’”
However, in its “2006 Report on the State of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees felt quite different about Parker’s leadership.
The Coalition said soon after Parker was confirmed in 2003 and assumed his duties, more than 2,000 complaints (listed as inquiries) were filed. The report asserted cases were “completely mishandled” while others were “haphazardly closed” for failure to respond and considered final agency decisions.
The report spoke of there being “rumors that the temporary employees hid complaints in their desk drawers, shredded others and threw many in the trash,” and exclaimed, “Some of the same activities exist to this day!”
The Coalition called Parker’s office a “complete fiasco” stating, “There was speculation regarding case tampering, reversing decisions to favor agencies and payouts awarded to those willing to keep their mouths shut.”
The report said “Mr. Parker pledged ‘to work to root out discriminatory practices as weeds in the garden of democracy.’ That never happened.”
The Coalition, while providing numerous examples of waste, stated it was confident the GAO would discover that millions of American tax dollars had been squandered since the establishment of the new position of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
It said, “The boldness and failure under Vernon Parker and his leadership team runs deep to the core of our justice system and goes far beyond dollars. Their behaviors speak for themselves.”