The United States Postal Service says it acted appropriately in dealing with the anthrax contamination incident that left Leroy "Rich" Richmond debilitated and killed two of his colleagues last October.
Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yackley reiterated last week that agency officials relied on "medical and scientific experts" who told them there was "no danger" that their Brentwood mail-processing plant would be contaminated by anthrax powder.
Yackley also addressed complaints that the agency did not close the Brentwood plant until Oct. 21, despite the fact that Susan Richmond had notified the plant manager of her husband's illness two days earlier. The agency acknowledges that someone phoned Brentwood on Oct. 19, Yackley said, but "the caller did not leave a name or number to return the call."
Yackley also said the U.S. Postal Service did not get confirmation of Rich Richmond's diagnosis of inhalation anthrax until Oct. 21, at which point "we closed the facility."
Regarding the assigning of a Department of Labor nurse to assess Richmond's medical progress, which the Richmonds interpreted as an effort to pressure him back to work, Yackley said the nurse was assigned to his case only after the Postal Service had "expressed concern ... that Mr. Richmond gets the proper care."
In fact, she said, the agency does not want Richmond to return to his job until he is medically certified by his own doctor to do so.
In assessing the performance of postal workers during the attack, Postmaster General John Potter observed, immediately following the Brentwood deaths, that his employees "have become quiet heroes simply by doing their jobs."
In April, in a speech at the National Press Club, he expanded on that theme: "Despite the challenges, our people pulled through and stayed focused on delivering the mail. Why? Not because we're heroes, not because we're risk-takers. But because we ... are committed to the ideal that, regardless of who you are, regardless of whether you are rich or poor, whether you live in an urban or rural setting ... you have a fundamental right to send and receive mail."
- Gary Dorsey