Former NASA Official Guilty of Ethics Charge

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009

A former top NASA official was convicted Thursday in the District's federal court of steering millions of government dollars to one of his consulting clients.

Courtney Stadd, 54, of Bethesda was convicted of using his government job to serve his own financial interests and of making false statements.

Stadd declined to comment. His attorney, Mark Rollins, said he was "disappointed, and we plan to appeal."

Stadd could face up to 15 years in prison when sentenced in November. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Solomon and David Johnson, who prosecuted the case, said they were pleased by the verdict but declined to comment further.

Stadd, who worked on George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, was NASA's chief of staff from 2001 through 2003. He left to become a private consultant but returned to NASA in April 2005 for several months as a "special government employee" to help the transition of new administrator Michael Griffin.

It was during this time that federal prosecutors say he steered federal funds to a consulting client, Mississippi State University's GeoResources Institute, which has been renamed Geosystems Research Institute.

Stadd told his NASA ethics advisers that he was recusing himself from any activities that might benefit his consulting clients, federal prosecutors said. But Stadd actually told a subordinate that $12 million of a $15 million congressional earmark had to go to firms in Mississippi. Of that $12 million, Mississippi State got about $9.5 million, federal prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors pointed to e-mails between Stadd and Mississippi State officials in which he discussed helping them obtain the funds. When he left the government, he also asked the university to increase his compensation from $7,000 to $10,000 a month, citing his efforts to win the school the earmarked money, prosecutors said.

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