Disgruntled HHS official pens caustic government take down

Frustrated by federal government bureaucracy that was “profoundly dysfunctional” and left him “offended as an American taxpayer,” the director of a Health and Human Services agency detailed his grievances in a pointed resignation letter.

For two years David Wright ran the Office of Research Integrity, responsible for reviewing any misconduct in research projects. But Wright, in a letter obtained and published by ScienceInsider, said the role was “the very worst job I have ever had” the majority of the time.

Wright describes his inability to get approval to spend $35 to convert old cassette tapes to CDs. He tried to fill a vacancy in his office, but an HHS deputy secretary said there was a secret priority list and couldn’t tell him where his open job fell.

Wright asserts in the letter, addressed to the Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh, that government officials care more about their own advancement than the public good:

“Since I’ve been here I’ve been advised by my superiors that I had ‘to make my bosses look good.’  I’ve been admonished: ‘Dave, you are a visionary leader but what we need here are team players.’  Recently, I was advised that if I wanted to be happy in government service, I had to ‘lower my expectations.’  The one thing no one in OASH (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health) leadership has said to me in two years is ‘how can we help ORI better serve the research community?’  Not once.”

Wright alleges in the letter that Koh himself described his office as an “intensely political environment.”

The Loop has reached out to OASH, HHS and the White House to respond to Wright’s take down. We will update if they do.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz · March 13, 2014