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Justice Department Official Fired After No-Show

POSTED: 09:08 PM ET, 06/26/2008 by Derek Kravitz

A top Justice Department official being investigated as part of a probe about potentially illegal hiring practices and misused travel expenses was fired after she failed to appear to a congressional hearing last week, ABC News reports.

Michele DeKonty, a former chief of staff to J. Robert Flores in the Justice Department, did not appear at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last Thursday after her attorney asserted that "as a matter of prudence . . . DeKonty elected to forgo cooperation with the committee at this time."

House investigators have focused on decisions by Flores, leader of a Justice Department office that dispenses juvenile justice and crime prevention grants, to give grants to the World Golf Foundation's First Tee initiative, whose honorary chairman is former president George H.W. Bush, and a sexual abstinence program promoted by Best Buddies, led by Elaine Bennett, wife of Reagan administration Cabinet official Bill Bennett.

Flores asserted that he had the authority to override staff recommendations and that he had made decisions on the merits -- not personal or religious ties.

DeKonty, 38, of Baltimore came under personal attack by Department Justice officials after she helped faith-based organizations apply for mentoring grants even though filing deadlines had passed, according to internal e-mails provided by the House committee.

DeKonty's lawyer, David H. Laufman, said lawmakers' effort to "publicly stigmatize" her for asserting her constitutional rights was "reprehensible."

Staffers were notified of DeKonty's ouster in an e-mail (click here for the copy obtained by ABC News) Wednesday from Flores.

By Derek Kravitz |  June 26, 2008; 9:08 PM ET
Previous: A Decade Later, Details On Campaign Ethics Case | Next: Lawyer Who Took On Tobacco is Sentenced

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