State IG hearing illustrates panel's conflict on probes

A high-profile House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday on State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard generated new charges in a mostly behind-the-scenes spat over how the committee treats witnesses.

The committee's majority and minority staffs have for months battled over what Republicans claim is Democrats' insistence that witnesses agree to voluntary interviews rather than sworn depositions, which under committee rules contain protections for witness confidentiality and restrictions on transcript releases.

Voluntary interviews, with fewer restrictions, allow Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to publicize attention-grabbing allegations more quickly, Republicans charge.

During a testy exchange Wednesday with Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., Waxman said the committee gives witnesses the option of a deposition or a voluntary interview. His assertion was quickly challenged after the hearing by Republican staffers. "That's just not true," said Keith Ausbrook, the committee's minority counsel.

Ausbrook said Democrats have told numerous witnesses interviewed in the Krongard probe that depositions are not an option, though in some cases they relented when the witnesses declined to cooperate otherwise.

He cited a Sept. 25 e-mail from Democratic staffer David Rapallo to State Department IG congressional liaison Terry Heide regarding the testimony of Assistant Inspector General for Audits Mark Duda.

"The committee is not offering a voluntary deposition at this time," Rapallo told Heide, adding that the panel was offering a voluntary interview.

Duda ultimately was deposed.

Heide became a target of the investigation after holding a series of meetings with IG staffers to advise them on their legal rights.

In a Sept. 28 letter and a report released Wednesday, Waxman said Heide intimidated employees by telling them they could be fired based on their testimony.

The letter said she might have broken whistleblower laws.

Republicans and a lawyer retained by Heide argued she was targeted in part because she counseled the employees to insist on deposition, sparking conflict with committee Democrats.

"One of the reasons [Democrats] got mad at Terry Heide is because she started asking questions," said David Laufman, a lawyer Heide hired last month.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.