White House urged to punish GSA chief to 'fullest extent'

U.S. Government Printing Office

General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan should "be disciplined to the fullest extent" for violating the law that limits political activity in agencies, the head of the independent agency investigating the matter said in a letter to President Bush Friday.

The four-page letter, released by the Office of Special Counsel late Monday, stated that Doan also should be punished for failing to cooperate fully and honestly with OSC's investigation.

Special Counsel Scott Bloch said in the letter that the investigation concluded Doan violated the Hatch Act's prohibition against using her authority to interfere with or affect an election through her role in a Jan. 26 meeting at GSA headquarters. After a presentation by White House official Scott Jennings, Doan allegedly asked a question about helping Republican candidates, though accounts of her exact wording vary.

The letter does not address whether the presentation itself, which included a 28-slide PowerPoint presentation that analyzed the results of the 2006 midterm election, was a violation. OSC is investigating this issue separately.

A White House spokeswoman said the administration had received the OSC report and will review it internally. She did not know how long that will take.

GSA issued a statement saying, "It would be inappropriate for the administrator to comment on an official letter from the Office of Special Counsel to the President of the United States."

"Mr. President, you have much to weigh in deciding what course of action to take," Bloch wrote. "On the one hand, you have Administrator Doan's list of achievements in office and a distinguished career in the private sector. On the other, you have evidence of misconduct under the Hatch Act and, in a light most favorable to Administrator Doan, a proclivity toward misrepresentation and obstructing an official investigation. She has shown little ability to appreciate how her actions have affected the public trust or others in the administration who are watching."

The letter stated that "despite engaging in the most pernicious of political activity prohibited by the Hatch Act," Doan has failed to show any remorse or appreciation for the seriousness of the violation.

Bloch said Doan's response to OSC's report is evidence she is attempting to "minimize her illegal political activity" by arguing that her request was directed at politically appointed officials. "One may assume any such political activity likely would be in line with 'their own beliefs,'" the response stated.

In a nine-page memorandum on her response, OSC said "it is appalling" for Doan, as the highest ranking official at the agency, "to argue that her solicitation of political services was not so egregious because it was directed at her subordinate political appointees as opposed to her subordinate career civil servants."

The memo said Doan's response does not dispute any of the facts in the OSC report. Rather, the GSA chief attempted to shift the focus to the actions of others to minimize her illegal activity, OSC stated.

The OSC memo also provided more details on the discussion at the conclusion of the presentation. It stated that after Doan asked those at the meeting how the agency could help "our candidates" a GSA regional administrator spoke up and asked how the agency could get "our people" to attend a building opening event since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would be attending. Doan followed that comment by emphasizing the importance of having Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., attend the opening of a federal courthouse since former President Clinton was scheduled to attend.

Following these statements, Jennings interrupted the conversation and asked for the discussion to be "taken off-line," according to OSC.

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