DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News is investigating a controversial exchange of messages between a national Veteran Affairs director and her subordinate in metro Atlanta.
Through sources, Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Aaron Diamant obtained a copy of the exchange that many critics are calling racially-charged and highly inappropriate.
The messages -- from January -- were sent between center director Angel Lawrence and staffer Nathan Jaco.
According to the documents, Jaco once said, “When I become Emperor, the parasitic class will be purged. Into the ovens.”
Lawrence replied, “oh my take that back”
Jaco said, “Take what back?”
Lawrence said, “the whole oven thing”
Jaco replied, “That’s where you draw the line? You really don’t need to hang out with me then. That’s mild.”
Lawrence said, “I just howled out loud laughing.”
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The center Lawrence leads had been the target of several investigations by the VA’s inspector general, which, over the last few years, have documented mismanagement, bad oversight and system breakdowns that may have delayed or denied health care for American veterans, including hundreds of thousands with pending applications.
Emory University Center for Ethics Director Edward Queen told Diamant the messages were “completely unacceptable.”
“It suggests something deeper and more disturbing that I think really needs to be attended to,” Queen said.
Jaco did not respond to Diamant’s request for comment.
He did, however, tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the conversation was meant to be private, and wasn’t meant to be hateful.
Jaco said he’s a veteran who served in Iraq, has PTSD and the tone of the conversation is the way people in the military speak with each other.
He said he doesn’t talk that way in the office.
He said he may have employed “dark humor” to deal with the frustrations he encounters working at the VA and the problems that negatively impact veterans, which can be frustrating.
“I get angry about the things I see on my job and I vent,” he said. “I did say some off-color comments in a private conversation. But as these documents show I worked my ass off for veterans.”
Lawrence referred Diamant to the agency’s press secretary, who sent the following statement: “VA will not tolerate inappropriate or unprofessional conversations over our IT systems, not the waste of taxpayer dollars on non-VA business. VA is reviewing data files to determine whether this conversation in fact took place.”
Depending on what it finds, the VA says it will evaluate what it called “appropriate disciplinary action.”
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