GSA administrator fires latest salvo in battle with agency inspector general

Give General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan credit for this much -- she's not afraid of making new, and powerful, adversaries.

First, it was Brian Miller, GSA's inspector general, with whom she has feuded virtually since the day she took office. Then Doan drew the wrath of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., when they alleged she improperly meddled in GSA contract negotiations.

The most recent object of Doan's ire is Kenneth Kaiser, chairman of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency's Integrity Committee, and assistant director of the FBI's criminal division. In her second letter to Kaiser in less than two months, Doan again railed at him over his January dismissal of several whistleblower allegations, calling Kaiser's explanation "absurd" and "particularly offensive to all of the people over the past several months that have demonstrated personal courage in bringing these allegations to your attention."

The committee, which is responsible for probing complaints against inspectors general, announced earlier this year that it had dismissed a number of serious whistleblower allegations filed by four attorneys in GSA's IG office against Miller and his top deputies. The investigation lasted less than six weeks. At that time, Doan wrote her first missive to Kaiser on the subject, saying the decision "confirms the suspicions of many that the PCIE is a hollow shell, that the PCIE exists only as a fig leaf to provide the illusion of oversight over IG misconduct, but, in fact, its real purpose is to whitewash any wrongdoing, avoid responsible action and ensure a blind eye to IG misconduct."

PCIE dismissed the complaints, because they did not fall within the purview of its oversight powers and referred them to an outside IG office. The FBI said the complaints have been reviewed by both PCIE and another inspector general, and the results have been sent to Clay Johnson, deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget, and Kaiser.

"Due to privacy issues, the PCIE cannot comment on the outcome, nor can we comment on Mr. Kaiser's letter to Administrator Doan," said Stephen Kodak Jr., a spokesman for Kaiser.

The dispute dates back to the fall of 2006, when a female employee in GSA's inspector general office filed a series of whistleblower complaints against management of the office. Shortly thereafter, Robert Samuels, Miller's then-top deputy, assigned the employee to an eight-month nonreimbursable detail with the Housing and Urban Development Department. Samuels extended the detail several times. That action sparked a series of complaints and countercomplaints among attorneys in the IG counsel's office.

Miller and Samuels have denied wrongdoing. The IG's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment about Doan's letters.

Doan has attempted to link the whistleblower's complaints to her own long-running and very public feud with Miller, charging that they are fruit from the same poisonous tree.

The administrator has filed numerous complaints with PCIE against Miller, charging the IG with improper contracting, leaking documents to the media, falsifying records and issuing excessive bonuses to his staff. She also complained that Miller's tactics had caused three contractors -- Canon, EMC Corp. and Sun Microsystems -- to cancel their GSA schedule contracts.

Doan also appears to be seeking help in her battle with Miller from an unlikely source: Grassley.

She wrote to Grassley on March 24, briefing the senator about PCIE's complaints and urging cooperation. "We need to ensure a hostile workplace does not exist at GSA, which might prevent us from attracting and retaining qualified contracting officers. I am committed to this effort and to helping the four whistleblowers."

Grassley, a longtime supporter of whistleblower rights, has yet to respond to the letter, according to a spokeswoman.

Miller has investigated Doan for her role in a Sun Microsystems contract, her alleged attempt to give a sole-source contract to a friend and her participation in a politically motivated conference. Last year, the Office of Special Counsel found that Doan had violated the Hatch Act, a federal law restricting political activity by executive branch employees.

Doan has denied the allegations and said Miller is angry about spending cuts and increased oversight she proposed for the IG's office.

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