Army Secretary White’s flight to Aspen gets ink
April 2, 2002
A quick search of a media database shows that Aspen was in the news last week, with the buzz words being White, water and helmets.
The city of Aspen’s willingness to sell its water as bottled “Aspen water” got distributed nationally, as did the call to put lids on kids in ski school.
But it was the recent travels of Thomas White, the secretary of the Army, that injected Aspen into the most news reports.
On Friday, March 29, The Washington Post headline was “Pentagon Inspector Probes White’s Trip” while The New York Times put it this way, “Enron’s Many Strands: The Army Secretary; The Pentagon Opens Inquiry On Travels In Military Jet.”
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News got the point: “Army Secretary in Airplane Flap.”
The next day, the Houston Chronicle, Enron’s hometown newspaper, devoted an editorial to the topic.
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The Chronicle’s editorial was called “Flying Blind; Army secretary seems to have problem with ethics.” It pulled few punches.
“The secretary of the Army, Thomas White, has an apparent blind spot when it comes to the ethics of public office. If he cannot correct it instantly, he should resign.
“White’s problems are many. A former Enron executive, he was reluctant to sell his Enron stock after his appointment, dragging it out for months. As Enron’s fortunes sank, the Army secretary talked on the phone with his Enron contacts about Enron’s financial condition before selling millions of dollars in Enron stock.
“On Thursday the Pentagon’s inspector general said he was investigating White’s use of a military jet to fly the secretary and his wife to Aspen, Colo., for the weekend. While there, The Washington Post reported, they wrapped up the $6.5 million sale of their ski resort house.
“Defending his use of the Army jet, White said he had business in Dallas and then Seattle, and that Colorado was a convenient place for him to spend the weekend. He needs to realize that, especially in wartime, the Army and its aircraft are not there for his convenience.
“White said he just wants to ‘do something good for soldiers and their families.’ How many of them does he think the Army jets to ski resorts for the weekend?
“White says he will resign if investigations into his Enron ties and other affairs prove too distracting. That time may be fast approaching.”