Third Case of Watchdog Interference Alleged
Top officials at the International Trade Commission have removed the agency's inspector general amid a new investigation by Sen. Charles E. Grassley into allegations that an employee took files in the possession of the watchdog.
The Iowa Republican sent a letter yesterday (pdf) to ITC Chairwoman Shara L. Aranoff in regards to the incident that occurred in mid-March. Grassley quotes from the inspector general's semi-annual report to Congress, which states that "in the course of conducting an investigation regarding contractor activities, certain procurement files were removed forcibly from the possession of the Inspector General by a Commission employee.”
"It is difficult to understand why the ITC would not have taken action to ensure that the ITC Inspector General had the information necessary to do the job," Grassley wrote, asking that he receive all relevant information by mid-July.
Within hours of receiving Grassley's letter, Aranoff -- a former Democratic staffer for the Senate Finance Committee appointed to her position by President George W. Bush in 2005 -- informed ITC Acting Inspector General Judith Gwynn that the agency will not renew her current contract when it expires in early July.
Gwynn is a career ITC employee who previously held positions with the IG's office and the budget office. Agency officials appointed her acting IG in January 2008 and have extended three temporary six-month contracts to her since then. Her current agreement expires next month. Though Aranoff terminated her contract as IG, Gwynn can apply for another position at the agency if she chooses to do so, because she is a career employee.
Grassley wants ITC to clarify Gwynn's unique contractual arrangements.
"I am unaware of any other agency Inspector General that serves under such a constraint and am curious to learn what statutory authority gives the ITC the ability to make a limited term appointment," Grassley wrote.
Under law, ITC's IG is classified as a "non-independent" office (or what folks in the IG community call a "Section 8G," in reference to its authorizing section in the original Inspector General Act). This means the watchdog has less independence and flexibility than "independent" investigators at other agencies.
ITC spokeswoman Peg O'Laughlin said the agency has received Grassley's letter and will respond soon. She could only say that Gwynn's current employment status expires next month. The agency is in the process of recruiting a new, permanent IG, O'Laughlin said.
Grassley's latest inquiry follows recent requests for information regarding President Obama's dismissal of the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service and reports of possible interference with IG investigations at the Library of Congress.
Posted by: doctormiguel | June 18, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse
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