GSA Head's Attorney Denounces Allegations
Saturday, June 2, 2007
An attorney for U.S. General Services Administration chief Lurita Alexis Doan yesterday said allegations that his client violated the Hatch Act should be rejected because they are based on "tenuous inferences and careless leaps of logic."
Michael J. Nardotti Jr. wrote in a 16-page response to an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel that President Bush should disregard allegations that Doan used her office for political purposes.
The Office of Special Counsel said last month that Doan violated the Hatch Act during a Jan. 26 PowerPoint presentation of 2006 election results by the White House for GSA political appointees. The presentation by Karl Rove's Office of Political Affairs included slides that targeted Democratic seats in 2008 and identified Republican seats that needed to be protected.
At the presentation's conclusion, Doan allegedly asked what could be done to "help our candidates" in the next election, according to the special counsel's report. Several political appointees who participated in the presentation told the special counsel under oath that Doan asked that question or a version of it and that some GSA political appointees responded with ideas of how the agency could use its facilities to benefit the Republican Party.
The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their positions to advance political causes. Violations of the act can result in removal from office. Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch said in a May report that Doan violated the act and that he planned to forward his findings to the president, who has the authority to discipline politically appointed agency chiefs such as Doan.
Under oath during testimony on Capitol Hill and in an interview with investigators for the special counsel, Doan said that she did not recall making the remark and that the witnesses against her were biased because they were poor performers. Nardotti said in the response to the special counsel's report that his client did not violate the Hatch Act, in part, because her alleged remark was not directed at GSA political appointees. Instead, he said, any such remark would have been directed to J. Scott Jennings, the deputy in charge of the White House's political affairs office who was conducting the presentation.
Nardotti said it "is difficult to conclude" that Doan solicited help from her employees and there was no attempt to coerce them to use the GSA, one of the largest contracting agencies in the federal government, for political purposes.
Nardotti added that investigators asked leading questions of the GSA political appointees who were interviewed.
He also said that the "fundamental fairness" of the process has been damaged because copies of the special counsel's report were leaked to the news media before Doan had a chance to respond. He said the report was disparaging and "clearly visceral in tone." And he questioned whether his client would be treated fairly because of the leaks to major news organizations and trade publications that closely monitor the GSA.
"The OSC has an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and a fair and impartial consideration of the facts and circumstances of this case indicate it has not done so here," Nardotti wrote. "No action by the OSC now could erase the stigma of impropriety that now overshadows this case."