GSA's Doan done in by battling White House

General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan was fired Tuesday almost a year after her actions drew heavy criticism from Capitol Hill Democrats, but her ouster was triggered by more recent friction with the White House, officials briefed on the matter said.

According to House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Tom Davis, the headstrong administrator angered White House officials by refusing to abide by their wishes on several matters, including her recent rejection of suggested political appointees to fill senior-level vacancies at GSA.

"That seems to be the straw that broke that camel's back," said Davis, citing a conversation with White House officials regarding Doan's ouster.

"At the end of the day it was that kind of thing," added Davis, who has been a staunch backer of Doan and who criticized her removal.

According to Davis and GSA officials, Doan rejected a series of White House candidates for the jobs of GSA general counsel and chief acquisition officer. Both posts, while recently filled by political appointees, are held by career civil servants serving in an acting capacity.

A senior House aide said Doan, who joined the agency after success as an entrepreneur and founder of a technology firm, appeared to misstep when she attacked Kenneth Kaiser, chairman of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency's Integrity Committee and assistant director of the FBI's criminal division.

Doan repeatedly criticized Kaiser after he dismissed whistle-blower complaints against GSA Inspector General Brian Miller, with whom Doan has battled for nearly two years.

In a letter to Kaiser, Doan called the council "a hollow shell . . . that 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," Government Executive reported last month.

In attacking the council and vowing to continue her feud with Miller, Doan butted heads with Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Clay Johnson, who is the titular chairman of the council and longtime associate of President Bush, the aide said. Sources said Doan has long been at odds with Johnson and has refused to attend a regular meeting he convenes.

Such battles apparently lost Doan the White House backing that allowed her to survive blistering attacks last year by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, congressional Democrats and others.

The independent Office of Special Counsel, in a report in June, recommended President Bush remove Doan for violating the Hatch Act, which bars use of federal resources for partisan politics. Democrats in the House and Senate called for her resignation.

Though the White House publicly refused to address the attacks and Bush took no action, Doan was privately warned to avoid controversies, sources said.

Davis said Doan's recent clashes with the White House led officials there to conclude that she was not worth keeping on as head of what they consider a "third-tier" agency.

"She's too temperamental," Davis said, summarizing the White House view.

Davis said he had warned Doan unsuccessfully not to fight the White House over the general counsel position.

But late Tuesday afternoon, Doan was summoned to the White House, where she was asked to resign her post, sources said.

The White House and OMB declined to respond to questions Thursday about the reason for Doan's ouster.

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