In the search to find and interview some of the 85 directors, officers, auditors and state chapter officials of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, the St. Petersburg Times found recorded public records for only two: Bobby C. Thompson, director of development and group spokesman, and Tom Mader, listed as commander of the group's Georgia state chapter.
Thompson, 63, is registered to vote at his residence at 1626 E 17th Ave. in Tampa. A Thomas W. Mader is registered to vote at 1628 E 17th Ave., the right half of the duplex Thompson rented and used as office space.
Records show that Mader registered to vote using that address in 2003 and voted by absentee ballot in the general elections of 2004 and 2008.
Except that the real Thomas W. Mader, in Vallejo, Calif., says he did none of that. He voted in both those elections in California while someone used the name Thomas W. Mader, with the same date of birth, to vote in Hillsborough County.
The real Mader headed the Navy's submarine tactical weapons section and retired as captain with 30 years service. Now 61, he's an associate professor of engineering technology at California Maritime Academy.
His name and date of birth match the Mader registration in Hillsborough voting records. The Times could find no other Thomas W. Mader with the same date of birth anywhere in the United States.
The California Mader said he never lived in Tampa or registered to vote in Hillsborough, didn't know Thompson and didn't know of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association or the Georgia chapter he supposedly headed.
"This is all news to me,'' Mader said. "I have not even heard of this group."
No Tom Mader currently lives at the Ybor City address. The state of Florida has not issued a driver's license or ID card for anyone by that name.
So who used the address at the duplex to register and vote — twice — as Mader?
The answer came via an e-mail purported to be from the Navy Veterans director and secretary, Brian Reagan, sent through general counsel Helen Mac Murray. (The Times could not find Reagan in searching over six months.)
The e-mail under Reagan's name said the Thomas Mader who registered in Hillsborough might have been one of the homeless veterans sheltered at that address in 2003 by the U.S. Navy Veterans for Good Government, NAVPAC, a political action committee associated with the Navy Veterans Association.
The e-mail under Reagan's name said Mader "served honorably and professionally" as an elected officer of the Navy Veterans Georgia chapter until his term expired Dec. 31, 2008.
No records were filed with the Federal Elections Commission about any program by NAVPAC to house homeless veterans, a requirement if funds were expended. Why not? Reagan's response said homeless veterans were housed temporarily in the PAC office and other facilities, including Thompson's duplex, but there were "no actual dollar expenses for the program."
Reagan's letter said the Times was wasting its time trying to find who registered to vote as Mader and suggested the newspaper find out who Mader voted for in 2004 and 2008. Then, Reagan's letter suggested sarcastically, "write to those candidates implying they were in cahoots with Mader to get extra votes."
Communication with Reagan was by e-mail only. The Times could not find him in San Diego, the hometown listed for him on the Navy Veterans' Web site. The tax-exempt association would not provide a phone number for its director, or permit him to meet in person.