WASHINGTON, DC Over the last 72 hours, the world has learned the current state of civil rights at the United States Department of Agriculture and witnessed a surprising lack of political courage from the Obama Administration regarding the forced resignation of Georgia State Director Shirley Sherrod.
I am a USDA whistleblower. I reported $40 million in government waste, fraud and abuse at USDA during the Clinton Administration, and I have one of the thousands of unresolved EEO cases that Secretary Vilsack referenced.
The question I have is "Who is Cheryl Cook?"
Recounting the facts reported: Shirley Sherrod claimed that she was told by USDA Deputy Undersecretary Cheryl Cook while driving to immediately pull over to the side of the road and submit her resignation via Blackberry because the White House feared videotapes of her would be featured on Glenn Beck.
The White House denied this claim and stated that they had nothing to do with her termination, although President Obama initially supported Secretary Vilsack's early decision.
Secretary Tom Vilsack admitted that he made the decision to request Shirley Sherrod's resignation, not the White House, but admitted that he did not make the request himself. He regretted, that job fell on Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook.
Shirley Sherrod emphatically believes that the White House was involved in her termination simply because Cheryl Cook told her so. Thus, the critical matter comes down to "she said" . . . "she said."
Either, Cheryl Cook intentionally lied to Shirley Sherrod about White House involvement in order to force her resignation. If so, then Shirley Sherrod was actually coerced into resigning under false pretense by Cheryl Cook. Or the Deputy Under Secretary knew that the White House was actually involved, and both Secretary Vilsack and the White House are lying.
Which brings me back to my original question just who is Cheryl Cook? Is she the type of person who would lie to USDA employees about White House involvement in negative personnel actions? Or is she someone Secretary Vilsack would fall on the sword to protect?