By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 5, 2009
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) charged yesterday that top officials at the Library of Congress have interfered with investigations conducted by its independent watchdogs and have frequently admonished investigators for the tone and focus of their investigations.
"Your office's attempts to influence and/or control" the Office of Inspector General "appear to be in direct contravention of the principles underlying the creation of the Inspectors General," Grassley wrote in a sharply worded letter delivered to Librarian of the United States James H. Billington. "Independence is the hallmark of the Inspectors General throughout the country."
Aides to Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, are looking into similar cases of interference with inspector general investigations at other government agencies, according to a spokeswoman for Grassley.
Library of Congress spokesman Matt Raymond said Billington will review Grassley's letter and respond in full. He also noted that Billington requested the library's first-ever audit and called for the establishment of an independent IG.
Last year, the Library of Congress Office of Inspector General executed 13 federal search warrants and served 16 IG subpoenas. The IG also obtained three federal grand jury subpoenas that led to the prosecution of six individuals. Investigations have focused on employees' activities involving child pornography possession, identity theft and embezzlement. The OIG employs 18 full- and part-time investigators and auditors.
Grassley's letter includes e-mails and memos from the library's chief operating officer, Jo Ann Jenkins, to Inspector General Karl Schornagel that criticized the tone and focus of investigations and other reports. In a November 2007 memo, Jenkins went so far as to suggest language to soften the tone of a semiannual report to Congress. Schornagel and his staff are most concerned that Congress revoked its firearms privileges with passage of the 2009 omnibus spending bill. Library officials and House appropriators supported the move, stating that the library's OIG did not need armed law enforcement powers and could instead rely on Library of Congress Police or Capitol Police.