Contractor to help rebuild Iraqi health-care system fired after arrest

A contractor who was to serve as the senior adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Health was fired Wednesday after the Defense Department learned of his recent arrest.

Joe Whitaker of Shreveport, La., had been selected by the Bush administration to help rebuild the health-care system in Iraq. A Ouachita District Court judge set a $200,000 bond Wednesday for Whitaker, who is accused of misusing $1.4 million that was supposed to go to subcontractors who worked on the $7.1 million Monroe Surgical Center in Monroe, La. Fifteen subcontractors have filed liens against the hospital because Whitaker has not paid them.

Whitaker was arrested July 16, the day before he was to leave for Iraq. His court date for arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 15.

“Whitaker is no longer available to perform his duties and, therefore, will not be assuming the position to which previously he was assigned,” Chris Isleib, a spokesman for the Defense Department said in a statement Wednesday. “His appointment has been terminated.”

Whitaker’s company, Whitaker Construction, was once the third-largest construction firm in Louisiana. The company went into bankruptcy last year due to five lawsuits from unpaid subcontractors.