July 17, 1995 in Nation/World

Nra Contacted Waco Hearing Witness Child Welfare Worker Says Agent Misrepresented Herself

David Johnston New York Times
 

A child welfare worker subpoenaed to testify at Republican-led hearings into the government’s actions at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, said Sunday that she was summoned after being interviewed by a researcher who suggested she was a House committee staff member but who later acknowledged working for the National Rifle Association.

The witness is Joyce Sparks, who was a supervisor at the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services and who had extensive contact with the Branch Davidians before federal agents tried to dislodge them from their compound.

She said in a telephone interview Sunday that she had been contacted by a woman who said she was part of the “Waco hearing team” and who asked her about her dealings with David Koresh, the Davidian leader.

Ms. Sparks identified the woman who interviewed her as Fran Haga and said Haga told her she was helping the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, one of two panels holding the hearings scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Sparks said she assumed that Haga worked for the committee because Haga told her she was supplying names of prospective witnesses to the committee, and she mentioned two staff members.

“I asked, ‘Exactly who pays your salary,’ ” Sparks said.

“We started going around in circles and she mentioned the NRA and said they didn’t want the congressional committee to have to start from scratch and were helping them along to get to speed,” she said.

Later, Sparks received a copy of a memorandum from Haga about their conversation, which was addressed to Mark Barnes, a lawyer who has represented the NRA. Efforts to reach Haga and Barnes on Sunday by telephone were unsuccessful.

Sparks’ account was revealed Sunday by Rep. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer and other Democrats have criticized the hearings as a forum in which conservative Republicans could win favor with constituents who oppose gun control by embarrassing the law-enforcement agencies that took part in the raid, like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The agency enforces gun laws that the NRA opposes.

“We now see an emerging pattern of very deep NRA involvement in the planning of these hearings,” Schumer said. “It raises a very serious question about whether these hearings are being conducted in an impartial manner or even in accord with House ethics.”

In June, committee staff members who went to Texas to examine the remains of weapons found in the Davidian compound took along a group of experts but did not disclose that they were paid by the rifle association, which has criticized agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for its “storm troopers tactics.”.

Despite her complaint that Haga misrepresented herself, Sparks said she would testify Friday as scheduled about her examination of child neglect at the Waco compound.


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