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Federal Eye
Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 03/25/2011

DOT faults Amtrak in inspector general’s ousting

Rein Eye Opener

A new report says Amtrak officials did not give “adequate consideration” to a federal law requiring the rail service to inform Congress before pushing out its long-serving inspector general two years ago.

The conclusion by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general was noted in a letter to three Republican lawmakers who requested an inquiry into the 2009 removal of Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold.

DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovell III reviewed nearly 7,000 pages of correspondence and interviewed Amtrak staff, according to the report, first reported by the Washington Times.

“Amtrak does not appear to have given adequate consideration to Congress’ role with respect to inspectors general,” Scovell wrote. “Although the Amtrak board was aware of congressional interest and considered consulting Congress prior to its decision, it elected not to and treated the decision to replace its inspector general in the same manner as any other Amtrak senior executive.”

Amtrak spokesman Steven Kulm said the DOT’s letter “speaks for itself,” but he declined further comment. It was unclear whether Amtrak would face repercussions from the action.

According to Federal Eye’s Ed O’Keefe, Weiderhold unexpectedly retired in July 2009 after alleging that the rail agency's executives botched his internal investigations. The retirement came amid several unrelated incidents involving potential interference with federal watchdog investigations and after President Obama fired Gerald Walpin, the inspector general for the government's community service agency.

Scovell’s report follows an inquiry released last year by Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) that accused Amtrak of violating federal rules in Weiderhold’s firing. They said he was targeted because he had exposed waste and fraud.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Postal Service announces layoffs and buyouts to reduce its workforce.

Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson reports on OPM’s efforts to get health plans to offer incentives for wellness programs.

By  |  12:37 PM ET, 03/25/2011

 
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