GSA inspector general cleared of whistleblower complaints

The General Services Administration inspector general has been cleared of all allegations of misconduct in a pair of wide-ranging complaints filed by four of the office's former attorneys.

The inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service found that GSA IG Brian Miller had not violated any statute, rule or regulation, according to an April letter from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to GSA Administrator Lurita A. Doan.

A similar opinion was offered in January by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency's Integrity Committee, which is responsible for probing complaints against inspectors general.

But, despite calls for an immediate cease fire, the closure of the whistleblower case appears to have only inflamed the fury of Doan, who has feuded with Miller virtually since the day she took office.

The Corporation for National and Community Service IG, which agreed to review the case after the integrity and efficiency council ruled that some of the complaints did not fall within its purview, was looking specifically at whether the nonreimbursable detail of a GSA IG employee violated the Anti-Deficiency Act. The employee had been detailed to the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Vincent Mulloy, counsel to the community service IG, conducted a full breakdown of the complaint, reviewing the allegations, relevant laws and court decisions, according to Grassley's letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post's Government Inc. blog.

"The complaint should be considered without merit, and closed, to end the distraction of GSA OIG personnel from their duties," Mulloy wrote.

All additional complaints filed by the former attorneys, including former counsel Kevin Buford, were decided to be "personnel management" concerns that should be addressed by the agency's IG and his staff, the letter said. In two separate complaints to the integrity and efficiency council, the whistleblowers had charged Miller and his top deputies with intimidation, harassment and a host of retaliatory actions.

"We are satisfied that this matter has been put to rest," Miller said. "Multiple independent reviews showed the allegations to be false. Let's all get back to work."

Grassley, who has attempted to mediate the fractious relationship between Miller and Doan, encouraged the two to put aside their differences and work together for taxpayers.

"The PCIE review and the CNCS-OIG analysis should convince you the Buford PCIE complaint has been addressed and closed," Grassley wrote to Doan. "As such, I encourage you and IG Miller to demonstrate to all GSA employees the professionalism and character we all expect of top administrators in the federal government. I trust that you will move past this matter and will work cooperatively with the GSA OIG."

Grassley's optimism, however, could be misplaced.

In a statement to Government Executive, Doan made it clear that she is not ready to drop the whistleblower complaint -- or her scrutiny of Miller.

"I am, and will continue to be, a fierce advocate for GSA employees and will not allow any form of improper harassment and intimidation to create a hostile workplace at our agency," she said. "I find it remarkable that none of these whistleblowers has yet been interviewed. Instead, their core complaint about harassment and improper intimidation and retaliation is being ignored. This issue will not be put to rest until their complaints are investigated and a finding of fact is made. Ignoring these complaints and pretending the problem will self-correct is not going to work."

Doan further said the whistleblowers had their "reputations impugned and their careers interrupted after making these allegations, and all have sought transfer to other jobs."

As she has in the past, the controversial administrator once again portrayed the whistleblower complaints as an extension of her own long-running and public feud with Miller. Doan has filed numerous complaints against Miller, alleging improper contracting, leaking documents to the media, falsifying records and issuing excessive bonuses to his staff.

Miller has investigated Doan for her role in a contract with Sun Microsystems, her reported attempt to give a sole-source contract to a friend and her participation in a politically motivated conference. In 2007, the Office of Special Counsel found that Doan had violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by executive branch employees. Doan has denied the allegations and said Miller is retaliating against her for spending cuts and increased oversight she proposed for the IG's office.

She made it clear that peace with Miller is not in the cards any time soon. "I will stay on this issue like a dog on a bone until I am absolutely convinced that GSA does not harbor or tolerate behavior that creates a hostile workplace," Doan said.

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