Amtrak e-mail misuse alleged in IG scandal

Amtrak's independent investigative officer is asking the U.S. Postal Service to look into whether Amtrak officials misused the e-mail system by searching for communiqués between his office and Congress about the unexpected retirement of Amtrak's longtime inspector general, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The Transportation Department's inspector general also is conducting an independent probe about whether Amtrak unlawfully removed Inspector General Fred Weiderhold from his post in 2009, Issa said in a letter sent Wednesday to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Issa is butting heads with Rockefeller over Weiderhold's retirement, which at the time raised questions about the dysfunctional relationship between Amtrak's IG and its management, particularly Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper and General Counsel Elanor Acheson. Issa has called for Carper and Acheson to be fired. Rockefeller believes the evidence against the two Amtrak officials doesn't warrant such drastic action.

In the most recent exchange, Issa said new information has surfaced suggesting that Amtrak's law department used its e-mail archive database to search for messages between the current Amtrak IG and Congress about the investigation of Weiderhold's retirement. Amtrak IG Ted Alves has asked USPS to look into that matter, Issa's letter said. In November, Rockefeller said Republicans weren't thorough in their analysis.

The Senate Commerce and the House Oversight panels each have conducted their own investigations into the matter and have come up with different conclusions. House Oversight Republicans, along with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, say Amtrak forced its inspector general out of office without consulting Congress. Rockefeller believes Issa and Grassley relied too heavily on Weiderhold's account and presented an incomplete picture of his long and difficult relationship with the Amtrak board. Rockefeller notes, for example, that a long line of Amtrak executives complained about Weiderhold's tactics. Issa says those statements have no bearing on whether Amtrak management violated the law in removing Weiderhold.

The public exchanges between Issa and Rockefeller illustrate the typical jockeying for political capital inside the halls of Congress. Issa is notorious for poking at areas of the government where he believes officials have acted inappropriately; Amtrak is no different for him than the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Treasury Department, where he has also posed questions. For Rockefeller, the Republicans' attack on Amtrak hits close to his turf. Amtrak falls in the jurisdiction of his committee.

Rockefeller has made a point of noting that House Democrats didn't support the Republicans' final conclusions on the Weiderhold matter. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee were involved in the Amtrak investigation, according to Issa, and they chose at several points to remain silent on the Republicans' actions when they could have objected. House Oversight Democrats didn't formally object to the Republicans' report because the final product was billed as a GOP project, according to a Democratic staffer.

Commerce Committee spokeswoman Jena Longo said Issa's letter fails to address the omissions in his own report. "While it's nice that Chairman Issa is enthused about oversight, it is irresponsible to call for the removal of federal officials without presenting the full story. His allegations on Amtrak are part of a pattern of making allegations that don't stand up to careful scrutiny," she said.

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.