Toxic Shocker!

The government ambushed the Rocky Flats grand jury. Now its foreman is gunning for justice.

"So many people think the environment consists of a thermostat and a switch on the wall," he says. "But when you go outside and live there a few days, you know that's not true. The best way to clean up Rocky Flats is to put children and endangered species and horse trails on it? If you do it like this, there's going to be no questions asked. Who's going to point a finger at Cinderella and say she's not pure?"

Well, McKinley will. He remembers talking with a Rocky Flats engineer who told him that at one point, even as late as March 1992, the plant could be cleaned up -- but it's just too late now. The best solution is to cap the whole place once the obvious waste is hauled away. "That stuff lasts 24,000 years," he says.

Compared to the half-life of plutonium, McKinley's fifteen-year crusade seems like a drop in the leaky bucket. "The destination is not the enjoyment; it's the ride that's the most fun," he says. "Going over the trails. Traveling the trails has been a lot more fun than arriving at the water hole."

Still, he's glad the story is finally pulled into one package, even if it's a package that includes so much detail on secret grand-jury deliberations that he could land in jail for violating Rule 6(e). "I never quit," McKinley says. "The day after the grand jury was over, I started. I'd been through so many people to tell the story, but it didn't work. I had the technical ability, but not the legal ability. Caron was able to provide the legal help we needed and put it together."

And this month, they'll put it together for the cameras -- at a press conference announcing the Citizens' Initiative this weekend, at a presentation with Brever on The Ambushed Grand Jury at the LoDo Tattered Cover March 23, at an Alliance for Nuclear Accountability policy meeting in Washington, D.C., a few days later. As their book suggests, "Here, the trial will take place in the court of public opinion. Perhaps where it matters most."

Although the grand jurors are still on hold, the past fifteen years have seen some changes. Judge Finesilver retired from the bench and became a mediator. Hal Haddon, the lawyer who got Rockwell such a sweet deal, went on to represent the Ramseys and Kobe Bryant. An entirely different Bush is in the White House. And the Justice Department has become less forgiving of corporate execs who commit crimes, although the government still loves its defense contractors. "The basic way the government does business with defense contractors has not changed," Balkany points out. "It's still about money. All about money."

Not all whistleblowers make the cover of Time, either. "The bureau has been retaliating against me since the Wolpe Report came out in January 1993," Lipsky, the man who set everything in motion, told Balkany when they first met. "But that's not the point. The point is the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge Act. Rocky Flats is no place for recreation."

And democracy is not a spectator sport.

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