The Shrill Whistle-blower

The war between a state agency and a self-appointed watchdog degenerates into accusations of racism, revenge and name-calling--and your tax dollars pay for it

"Sooner or later, somebody is going to ask the question, 'Who is this guy?'" Lopez says. "I don't know who AHCCCSWatch is. As far as I know, it's just Greg Kahlstorf and his fax machine."

Lopez wonders what Kahlstorf would do if he were ever scrutinized.
"Everything for two years has gone his way . . . he's very clever, very smart. The coverage he has gotten is always favorable to his cause, always attacking AHCCCS. My own personal feeling is something is going to happen when something doesn't go his way," Lopez says. "I think he's an opportunist, I think he will take any opportunity to attack. And he took that opportunity with Logan. He has tried very, very hard to shine the spotlight on AHCCCS. I don't know if he understands that, eventually, the spotlight is going to hit him, too."

Greg Kahlstorf doesn't believe he belongs in the spotlight. His stake in the fight, he thinks, is irrelevant.

Despite his attempts to portray himself as an objective journalist covering a story, there are serious questions about his credibility.

Kahlstorf had problems with another ex-employer. And although this employer wasn't a public agency, Kahlstorf used the same tactics against it that he does against AHCCCS--and got slapped with a restraining order.

"Oh, God. It's like a curse," Carmen Santamaria-Urso says when she hears Kahlstorf's name. Urso says she hired Kahlstorf in March to do production work for her company, which does photo shoots for catalogues in Phoenix. Kahlstorf, she says, only lasted two weeks. After several confrontations, he left. But that wasn't the last she heard of him.

"He actually tried to start investigating us, for no reason, actually," Urso says. She claims Kahlstorf began faxing her clients, demanding payment for services he hadn't provided, threatening lawsuits. He also tried to get her kicked out of her hotel. She responded by getting a temporary restraining order against him.

Urso suggests that Kahlstorf is not the best person to make allegations of racism. The last confrontation, the one that led Kahlstorf to quit, was sparked by his racist comments, she contends.

"There was this little Mexican kid who worked for me, and he [Kahlstorf] was very discriminatory," Urso says, though she couldn't recall Kahlstorf's exact words. "I told him he didn't have to talk to the kid like that, that I didn't appreciate that kind of racism. . . . That was the last confrontation. He lost his top."

Kahlstorf refused to address Urso's allegations specifically when questioned about them.

AHCCCS officials also scoff at the image of Kahlstorf as a crusader for racial justice.

Kahlstorf targeted his former administrator, Barbera Bridgewater, and two other African-American employees, Charlie Adornetto says. "So for Mr. Kahlstorf to put on a white hat and claim that there is racism at AHCCCS is preposterous. Check out the source. He has viciously attacked African Americans."

Lopez and Adornetto both say they fear for employee safety at AHCCCS because of Kahlstorf. They say he fits the profile of the "disgruntled ex-employee." Because of this, AHCCCS has alerted the Capitol Police about Kahlstorf.

According to the restraining order, Urso was also concerned about Kahlstorf as a physical threat. "He's very obsessed with things. He's always right. He's always got to have the last word," she says. "He's just bad news. He's a frustrated man."

Kahlstorf says the allegations are unfounded, merely part of the smear campaign against him.

"Anyone can get a restraining order, as Logan Johnston has clearly demonstrated with his ex-wife," Kahlstorf says. "Whatever I might or might not have done, or whatever other members of AHCCCSWatch may or may not have done, if they have restraining orders, parking tickets . . . these are issues of individuals in their individual lives. . . . What we're talking about affects federal law, federal agencies, public money, public issues. . . . If the agency's best response to fraud, mismanagement, conflicts of interest, is that I have had a restraining order taken out against me . . . [that] is irrelevant and shows also a degree of desperation."

There's also an implied threat in Kahlstorf's responses to AHCCCS. He says he can get down and dirty, too, if he has to.

"We--meaning the people who are involved with AHCCCSWatch--certainly have access to all kinds of information. We have never wanted to get involved with personalities. The evidence we have to offer the government and the media is very solid. And because of that, there's never been a need to cross the line to taking personal attacks on people," Kahlstorf says. But he adds, "Frankly, I'm surprised AHCCCS would raise the issue of my personal credibility. . . . When it gets to character issues, we certainly could have gone down that path 10 times over."

Kahlstorf's reference to the "we" of AHCCCSWatch may be a stretch. Farrell Janssen, one of the people Kahlstorf refers to as a member, says it's actually just Kahlstorf's one-man show.

Despite Janssen's support for Kahlstorf, he doesn't think of himself as a member, and Kahlstorf doesn't consult with him on AHCCCSWatch matters. Janssen says he "rarely" talks to Kahlstorf anymore.

With the loss of his personnel claim, Janssen says he's likely to be even less involved. He has a job, after 18 months of unemployment, and that keeps him busy. Janssen says he means to tell people about AHCCCS through letters to the editor, but "I'm not much of a letter-writer."

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