DON'T TREAD ON JESSE

HIS FEDERAL EMPLOYER SUBJECTED HIM TO A DIZZYING ARRAY OF INDIGNITIES. NOW HE'S FINDING JUSTICE.

There have been problems cited by past employees, too. One African American filed an EEO complaint alleging discrimination; she settled the complaint after getting a job in another government agency.

Julie Williams, a white woman whose deceased husband was African American, also filed an EEO complaint.

"I am a young, white female with children of a different race," she complained. "Since the beginning of my employment with FmHA, I have experienced differential treatment, unfair scrutinizing of my work, and frivolous documentation of almost any conversation, disagreement or question I may ask my supervisor." Williams, who sat near the front of the office, claims she was told not to display her family pictures--which FmHA denies. FmHA later paid Williams $20,000 to settle her complaint, which she said had led her to a forced resignation.

Her troubles were complicated by the fact that she befriended Myers. "I had been warned not to associate with Jesse," Williams tells New Times. "They spent half of their time monitoring him, trying to find something wrong."

@rule:
@body:After Bill Clinton was elected president in November, the acting FmHA director immediately halted the exhaustive reviews of Jesse Myers' work. The benevolent acting chief also rescinded an order saying that Myers had to get permission to leave his desk.

Things were looking brighter for Myers and his friends. Farmers who had grown disenchanted with the FmHA over the past 12 punishing years were optimistic. They had lived through a vicious farm recession, and many of their peers had lost their farms to foreclosure. At one point, a federal judge ordered a moratorium on FmHA foreclosures until clearer rules could be put into place. When it was lifted, the foreclosures began again. The new secretary of agriculture has imposed a similar moratorium.

The agency didn't seem interested in helping farmers. Last year, Arizona FmHA lent out only 24 percent of the $14.6 million it had available to farmers through guaranteed loans from banks or directly from FmHA. It sent the rest back to Washington, D.C.

Velut insists every qualified applicant got a loan. Farmers disagree and say many don't bother to apply because they know they'll be turned down.

After Clinton's election, farmers went on the offensive, lobbying Senator DeConcini and FmHA. They wanted Myers to be state director.

"We would really like to see Jesse Myers in there," says Chris Claridge, a Safford farmer who heads the Arizona chapter of the American Agriculture Movement. "The people they have in there now don't make any loans, don't want to make any loans. I think Jesse would follow through with what the program was created to do." At least 30 farmers wrote letters recommending Myers for the post. Their recommendations didn't fall on deaf ears. C.L. Harvey, a Clinton campaign adviser from Arkansas, says he lobbied for Myers, as well.

"He was seriously considered," Harvey says. "Myers actually [had done] the hands-on work. He helped people save their farms, and he went to bat for people who would have got caught up in the bureaucratic shuffle. From speaking to farmers and other FmHA workers, it was clear he was the man."
In the end, however, politics as usual won out. DeConcini's choice was Democrat Alan Stephens, a former state Senate majority leader. As is customary, Clinton abided by the U.S. senator's wishes.

"The other guy [Stephens] didn't have any experience. But he was the local guy, the friend of the senator," Harvey says. "In any other state, Jesse Myers would have been the state director.

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