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Inspector General for Iraq Under Investigation

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has been praised by both parties for his work. Now, however, current and former employees allege that the office he leads has gone astray.
Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has been praised by both parties for his work. Now, however, current and former employees allege that the office he leads has gone astray. (Zuma Press Via Newscom)

According to people questioned by investigators and documents obtained by The Post, one of the most serious allegations that the FBI and federal prosecutors are probing is whether top SIGIR officials broke federal laws by accessing employee e-mail messages stored on computers maintained by the Army without proper authorization.

At least four former senior SIGIR officials said they told investigators that Bowen and Cruz looked at employee e-mail. One of them claimed to be an eyewitness to Bowen going through the e-mail of three employees. Another said Bowen and Cruz read the messages "to find out who was loyal and who was not."

The former officials said the e-mail monitoring began in 2005, before the government investigations commenced. They said the monitoring continued into this year in an effort to identify employees suspected of speaking with investigators and other government agencies.

In an interview, Cruz said she participated in administrative investigations "some time ago" that involved a "limited review" of three people's e-mail. Bowen said that "SIGIR policy states that employees do not have an expectation of privacy in the use of their government computers. . . . E-mail reviews can, and have been, conducted by SIGIR management to investigate allegations of work-related misconduct."

The investigations are focusing largely on the actions of Bowen and Cruz, according to current and former senior staff members who have been questioned, as well as congressional sources and other U.S. officials familiar with the probes.

Cruz, a former spokeswoman for the governor of Guam, originally joined SIGIR as a contractor working for the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. Current and former SIGIR employees have told investigators that Cruz threatened to put hexes on employees and made inappropriate sexual remarks in the presence of staff members. Cruz is a self-described wiccan, a member of a polytheistic religion of modern witchcraft. "We warned Ginger not to talk about witchcraft, that it would scare people," a former SIGIR employee said.

Cruz denied making comments of a "sexual nature" and noted that she was cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal SIGIR investigation into the claim.

After the detailed but anonymous complaint was sent to the presidential council, Cruz sought special dispensation from Bowen for SIGIR to pay her legal fees -- an uncommon practice within government, according to U.S. officials. So far, the agency has paid for more than $32,000 of Cruz's legal fees, according to copies of the invoices provided by SIGIR under a Freedom of Information Act request. Bowen said the agency's general counsel advised him that the payment of Cruz's legal fees was permissible.

The Army's Equal Employment Opportunity Office probe is focusing on a complaint by a former employee who had raised allegations of SIGIR discrimination in the dismissal of her African American assistant, which she charges led to her own dismissal in retaliation. The employee, Denise Burgess, stated in her complaint that she was terminated on the same day she spoke to the presidential council, just two months after receiving an $8,500 bonus from Bowen for exemplary work. Current and former SIGIR employees said they have been asked by FBI investigators about Burgess's termination.

Several staffers interviewed at the suggestion of SIGIR expressed loyalty to Bowen. One senior staff member said he has not seen any firsthand evidence of illegal or inappropriate behavior.

Several current and former officials expressed concern that the practices of SIGIR's leaders are discrediting the work of the agency. "SIGIR's purpose was to look at reconstruction and then go away," said a former senior official. "Are they contributing to the good anymore? No. Were they before? Yes. But they should have stuck to the plan and been willing to stand down in 2008."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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