February 26, 2007
A private attorney working for the head of the General Services Administration has asked a presidential ethics committee to investigate the agency's inspector general office to see whether employees there leaked sensitive information.
Michael Nardotti, a lawyer representing GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, wrote in a Jan. 31 letter obtained by Government Executive that "confidential and protected GSA IG investigative information and documents were leaked to outside sources," compromising the IG investigative process and "extraordinarily" harming Doan.
Doan has been the subject of an IG investigation since she allegedly attempted to award a no-bid contract to a friend's firm in July 2006. While the contract was never issued, the agency's IG opened a review about one month later. According to the letter from Nardotti, who is with the Washington law firm Patton Boggs, senior IG investigators said on Jan. 9 that the probe would continue for at least another five weeks.
"The leak of confidential and protected file information in the midst of an ongoing investigation constitutes a clear and gross abuse of authority," Nardotti's letter stated.
He argued that there "may be a connected pattern of leaks of confidential information from the GSA IG's office that are deliberately designed to cause reputational harm to Ms. Doan." The damage is such that it cannot be undone, Nardotti stated.
Nardotti sent the letter to James Burrus, chairman of the integrity committee within the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, a group made up of presidentially appointed inspectors general. Burrus is also assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.
Burrus said the integrity committee has yet to meet to decide whether to pursue an investigation.
The request for an investigation is another development in an ongoing battle between the head of GSA, the government's procurement and property management agency, and officials at GSA's audit branch.
In December, a spokesman for the IG said a recommendation from Doan that the office perform only half of its proposed fiscal 2007 audits was "an extraordinary effort to reduce serious scrutiny of the agency." The two sides also have disagreed over the IG office's budget.
The IG office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
A Feb. 2 letter from Kevin Messner, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., stated that the IG investigation of the administrator remains open and that Doan's actions have been mischaracterized.
A spokeswoman for Waxman said the committee has received other documents from GSA relating to the issue and is reviewing them.
In a statement, a GSA spokeswoman said that under the rules of professional responsibility, government attorneys may not represent agency officials in their personal capacities unless specifically detailed pursuant to special authority. Accordingly, Doan has assumed personal financial responsibility for private counsel, the spokeswoman said. She said that commenting on PCIE matters would be inappropriate.
The FBI's Burrus said it is not uncommon for senior government officials to obtain their own legal counsel in matters that could affect them personally.
Doan also has personally obtained the services of Mark Corallo, founder and principal managing member of Corallo Media Strategies LLC, an Alexandria, Va., crisis communications media services firm.
February 26, 2007