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DeLay Successor Seeks Inquiry Into Missing Computer Files

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 17, 2006

Just when it seemed things could get no stranger regarding the House seat once held by Texas Republican Tom DeLay, his successor called for an investigation into missing computer records last night, and an aide accused her of "disrespect and unprofessionalism."

Rep. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R-Tex.), who is warming the 22nd District seat for only a few weeks, said that former DeLay employees apparently deleted the office's computer files shortly before they walked out, en masse, on Tuesday.

The records dated from her assumption of the office Nov. 8 and did not involve matters related to the former majority leader, Sekula-Gibbs said in an interview in her unadorned office in the Cannon Building. Those who erased the records, she said in a statement, "have harmed the 22nd congressional district" and "brought shame to this office." She has asked for an investigation.

David James, DeLay's former chief of staff, who stayed to work for Sekula-Gibbs -- until Tuesday's walkout -- said last night that the office computers "were scrubbed and reconfigured by an outside vendor in the days immediately prior to her assuming office," as House policies require. The new congresswoman was given a copy of everything "electronically or in hard copy, or both," James said in a statement.

DeLay, facing indictment in Texas, resigned from his House seat in June, triggering two elections on Nov. 7 in his Houston area district. The first, won by Sekula-Gibbs, was a special election to complete his term in the 109th Congress, which will adjourn next month. The other, won by Democrat Nick Lampson, is for the full two-year term of the 110th Congress, which convenes in January.

Sekula-Gibbs, a dermatologist, arrived for Congress's lame-duck session with ambitions for funding a fence along the Mexican border, making a number of tax cuts permanent and achieving other goals that may or may not be possible in the handful of appropriations bills on Congress's plate.

She also invited President Bush and Vice President Cheney to her swearing-in, prompting titters among some GOP staffers. Yesterday she said the invitations were a courtesy and "it's absurd to think that I thought they would come."

James and half a dozen other former DeLay staffers were on board to help Sekula-Gibbs finish the 109th Congress's business. But they abruptly left their posts Tuesday, during her open house celebration. Sekula-Gibbs said she has no idea why they left. But James said in his statement: "Never has any member of Congress treated us with as much disrespect and unprofessionalism as we witnessed during those five days."

Earlier in the day, James had briefly returned to the office to turn in his House identification badge, a key and his laptop computer, along with a sergeant-at-arms receipt acknowledging their return. Sekula-Gibbs was out of the office, and James quickly left.

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