By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 27, 2007
The son and daughter-in-law of State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard have asked a judge to issue a restraining order forcing him to stop sending "unprofessional and highly offensive" e-mails that suggested the family would be put "on the street" if they lost a lawsuit Krongard has filed against them, according to documents filed last week in a New Jersey court.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating whether Krongard, a lawyer who was general counsel of Deloitte and Touche, thwarted politically embarrassing inquiries into contractor fraud and treated subordinates poorly.
A letter to Krongard last week from the committee's chairman, Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), accused Krongard of creating a "dysfunctional office environment in which you routinely berate and belittle personnel, show contempt for the abilities of career government professionals and cause the staff to fear coming to work." The letter said high personnel turnover has left the office with many senior-level vacancies and only seven of 27 investigator positions filled.
Krongard filed suit last year against his son, Kenneth W. Krongard, and his daughter-in-law, Kristin, over a home loan that he said they had defaulted on. They paid back the full loan -- then totaling about $320,000 -- within weeks of his suit being filed.
But Krongard has demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional interest and penalties and a full repayment of his legal fees. One of the exhibits on file in the case show that Krongard has claimed he has already been billed nearly $114,000 in legal fees.
His children suggested that Krongard was violating legal ethics by bypassing the lawyers and sending them threatening communications. In Krongard's e-mails included in last week's filing, he repeatedly berates his son, including denigrating his choice of lawyer. "As much as you despise me, do you really want to bet your family's future ON Barry Donohue and AGAINST me?" he asked on Aug. 12, referring to the lawyer.
On Aug. 9, in urging his son accept a settlement, Krongard wrote, "If you are willing to put your wife and children's future in jeopardy, that's your business."
In another e-mail Sept. 1, Krongard insisted he was "not the psychotic threat to [his grandchildren] that Kristin chooses to claim."
In an affidavit, Kristin Krongard said she viewed the e-mails "as a blatant attempt to harass, bully and intimidate." She added: "I am especially upset and offended by the plaintiff's threat to put my family 'on the street' if he wins this lawsuit."
Krongard's attorney, Joseph H. Kenney, did not respond to phone calls and e-mails. Krongard, reached via e-mail in Iraq, said, "I am not acting as a lawyer in this case; I am a party to a case and have communicated with the other party in efforts to resolve the case." He said the e-mails were "taken out of context from a longer exchange of e-mails."
Krongard added: "This is a highly personal matter. . . . I think it is intrusive and inappropriate for you to publicize it, especially while I am in Iraq trying my best to do my job as a public servant."
Kenneth and Kristin Krongard declined to comment. "In our opinion, there is no basis in law or in fact for this litigation," said their attorney, Barry J. Donohue. "Beyond that, my clients consider this to be a private family matter and do not wish to discuss it in the press."