A article May 12 about nepotism at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground incorrectly reported the relationship between two family members. Pamela Kaste is the wife, not the sister, of Robert Kaste. She was hired at the lab before the two married.
The Sun regrets the errors.
The Army inspector general is investigating charges of improper family influence in employment and promotion at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, officials and sources said.
FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION
The nepotism charges involve at least three families, who have 13 members working at the Army lab, and whose annual salaries range from $30,000 to $116,000. In one case, a father, three of his children and a daughter-in-law work at the Harford County facility.
According to Army Research Laboratory documents and sources, the investigation involves these employees:
William Mermagen Sr., a top official with the laboratory, has been employed there for 38 years. Two of his sons were hired about 11 years ago, a daughter-in-law was hired six years ago and a third son was hired last year.
Dr. Andrew Mark, another top official who has worked there 25 years, was followed there by his wife. Their daughter was hired three years ago.
Richard Kaste has worked at the Army lab for 25 years and his brother and sister later got jobs there. Kaste's former wife, Virginia To, was hired 14 years ago and was the supervisor of a brother-in-law.
Members of the three families either declined to return phone messages or referred inquiries about nepotism to public affairs officials.
"The nepotism charges are serious, and we take them seriously," said Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the Baltimore Republican whose district includes the proving ground. He has received complaints from employees at the laboratory, which is the Army's premiere research facility for land warfare.
The congressman's office said an investigation is being handled by Lt. Col. Dean Danielson of the Army inspector general's office. Danielson could not be reached for comment and Faith Faircloth, a spokeswoman for the Army Materiel Command, which oversees the proving ground, said she could neither confirm nor deny whether the charges are being probed.
Mike Orenstein, a federal Office of Personnel Management spokesman, said nothing is wrong with family members working at the same federal installation or office. "The bottom line is does the person have any influence in the employment of the relative," he said.
Under federal law, government employees may not appoint, employ or supervise a family member, nor advocate the employment of a close relative at another office within a federal facility.
After inquiries and a Freedom of Information Act request by The Sun this spring, officials at the research lab transferred Kenneth Smith, a computer scientist whose supervisor had been To since December 1994. Smith is married to To's sister.
"One instance of an improper supervisory relationship was revealed," wrote Dr. John W. Lyons, director of the research lab, in a letter to The Sun. "This relationship was unknown to the Directorate Director and myself prior to your inquiry."
To's duties had been limited to supervising Smith's technical work. Any performance evaluations, promotions, awards and other personnel-related matters were handled by Dr. Andrew Mark, the division chief.
But employees at the lab said that over the past several years, a number of complaints were made to Lyons' office and other officials about nepotism and favoritism, but no action was taken.
In an interview, Lyons said lab officials spoke with the specific employees as well as personnel officials, finding that each was hired on merit and found no family influence. "I think we're very careful with that," said Lyons, who has been director of the lab for 2 1/2 years. "I don't see any problem."
Lyons said he was unaware of any investigation by the Army inspector general's office.
An official at the Office of Personnel Management said the number of family connections at the lab was unusual for such a small facility. The lab employs about 900 workers at Aberdeen.
But Lyons said that because the proving ground is in a rural area, it is "very common to find several generations of blood relatives or relatives by marriage working either within the same organization or in another organization on the installation."
Nonmilitary hiring and promotion at the research lab is handled through the Civilian Personnel Office, which also oversees all civilian hiring for the other parts of the proving ground.
Mermagen, director of the Advanced Simulation and High Performance Computer Directorate, has been employed at the research lab for 38 years and earns $116,000. Three sons and a daughter-in-law have been hired at the laboratory during the past 11 years, according to records received under the Freedom of Information Act.