Tags: obama | IG | controversy

Third Inspector General Controversy Emerges

Friday, 19 Jun 2009 03:59 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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Judith Gwynn, the Inspector General for the International Trade Commission, has been told that her contract will not be renewed, making her the third IG in the Obama administration to draw controversy, according to a report by ABC News.

Gwynn’s release appears to be linked to an incident she recorded in her April 2009 Semiannual Report to Congress where she complained 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.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent the chair of the ITC a letter asking about the March 5 tug-of-war with the files, noting his chagrin that the Inspector General was treated in such a manner. Shortly thereafter Gwynn got notice that her tenure would end.

According to the ABC report, Grassley wrote to ITC Chair Shara L. Aranoff, noting: “The ability of Inspectors General to secure agency records subject to audit or investigation is essential to ensure the integrity and reliability of their work on behalf of Congress and the American People.”

According to a report in AllGov.com, Gwynn had been auditing ITC activities and contracting while on temporary status since January 2008, when she was appointed. Since then Gwynn had been employed in a succession of six-month contracts with her current contract set to lapse next month.

In addition to uncovering what was beneath the file controversy, Grassley wants to know why the ITC has been permitted to keep its IG on six-month contracts. “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 USITC the ability to make a limited term appointment,” Grassley wrote.

Unlike most IGs in the federal service, the ITC’s IG is classified as a “non-independent” office -- giving the commission’s watchdog less independence and flexibility to carry out investigations.

ABC noted that the Gwynn controversy differed from the other two IG flaps because of its apparent lack of connection to the Obama administration. The White House does not appoint the inspector general of the ITC – Aranoff has that authority. Aranoff was appointed to the position by President Bush.

Since the Obama administration took over, the president has fired the IG for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and there is a charge that IG investigations at the Library of Congress have been allegedly interfered with.

The Inspector General for CNCS, Gerald Walpin, 77, has denied the charge that he had grown fuzzy and disoriented, saying the White House was simply discriminating against someone who is older than most. “I’m not senile. I’m not disoriented. It’s an absolute lie,” he said.

There is one similarity between Gwynn and Walpin, however.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the author of a law that requires 30-day notice of the firing of an IG to Congress, has opined that the law has been violated in both cases.

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