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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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