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GBI Report: Witness protection files left unprotected


The head of Georgia’s Vital Records unit was fired after co-workers found unsecured files from the federal witness protection program in his office.

State officials had said Richard Wheat (right), 43, was let go last month for “gross mismanagement.” They provided no specific explanation for his dismissal.

Wheat was on leave in April when other employees at the state Department of Human Resources found boxes containing backed-up and unprocessed work in his office, according to the GBI’s executive summary of its investigation.

The items included files from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and other documents from the federal witness protection program, the summary said. On his return to work, it said, Wheat told investigators that he had also kept boxes with similar records in a locked closet.

“Wheat admitted during his interview to having poor organizational skills and to not delegating certain duties which ultimately led to the backlog,” the GBI summary said.

Leaving the witness protection files unattended in his office violated DHR’s protocol for sensitive documents. But investigators concluded Wheat did not intentionally commit a crime.

The GBI’s summary said Wheat’s actions apparently did not compromise any protected identities. It did not indicate how many files were unsecured.

Wheat was suspended with pay April 13 and fired April 30.

Georgia hired Wheat in 2006 at a salary of $95,000 with a $4,750 hiring bonus. At the time, he was serving as manager of vital records and deputy state registrar for the Michigan Department of Community Health.





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