Former Interstate Commerce Commission Secretary Robert L. Oswald has been accused by the commission of attempting to get a witness to lie in a Justice Department investigation, arranging for attorneys to represent trucking companies before the ICC and disclosing confidential ICC information.
These and other specific charges, which were officially filed early last month, were released for the first time to The Washington Post last night by Oswald's attorneys, Ambrose & Casselman, who also released Oswald's detailed responses.
The charges led to Oswald's dismissal by the ICC last month. He is appealing that action. Oswald is also being investigated by the Justice Department in an influence peddling probe.
In releasing the documents, Oswald's lawyers also revealed that their client apparently attempted suicide on Dec. 19 and that he is presently being treated at George Washington University Hospital.
Oswald, 43, was put on administrative leave with pay in June when details of the Justice Department investigation became public. Reportedly aimed at influence peddling at the ICC, the Justice investigation was said to be looking at mob interests in New York, which may have influenced ICC decisions in the trucking field.
But in September, ICC chairman Dan O'Neal reinstated Oswald in a job ICC sources described as "not of a sensitive nature." Oswald continued to draw his $47,500 GS-17 salary while working in the managing director's office.
On October 25, however, Oswald took a combined annual and sick leave, then applied for early retirement to the Civil Service Commission, claiming disability.
On Dec. 8, the Civil Service Commission informed the ICC that it would not approve Oswald's early retirement request, which his attorneys say was based on stomach and ulcer problems that began while he was serving in the military.
The next day the ICC revealed that it had fired Oswald. The specific charges made by the ICC in supporting that action, and Oswald's responses as released by his attorneys yesterday are summarized below.
During his tenure as secretary and congressional relations officer of the ICC, the commission charged, [TEXT OMMITTED FROM SOURCE] arranged for private attorneys or law firms to represent specific transportation interests before the ICC. [His] actions in this respect display the appearance of preferential treatment and partiality, affect adversely the Perceivxed integrity of the commission, and impair the confidence of the public in the commission's official actions."
Specifically, the ICC cited several instances where Oswald allegedly gave the names of attorneys that practice before the ICC to a least three trucking concerns and in some cases even set up meetings between the attorneys and the companies.
In one case, according to the commission, Oswald set up and participated a meeting between Washington attorney Theodore Polydoroff and Tom Gambino, an owner of Consolidated Carriers.
"[Oswald] told Mr. Polydoroff on the telephone that Consolidated Carriers had previously been denied ICC authority, primarily because Mr. Gambino's father was associated with the Mafia," the ICC claimed. Polydoroff's firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, "thereafter took the case," the ICC stated.
Oswald responded by claiming that he did provide names of "attorneys and firms who are authorized to practice before the ICC" but only "in response to a direct inquiry and at the behest of a member of Congress or his staff."
In addition, Oswald claims, "Such a list was never made available for the purpose of securing the retention of any person or firm named."
In the specific charge of his meeting with Gambino, Oswald says he gave a list of attorneys to Rep. John Murphy (D-N.Y.), "upon his request relative to an expressed interest in fair treatment for Mrs. Thomas Gambino." Oswald admitted meeting with Gambino and Polydoroff, but he said that the meeting "was arranged at the request of both Mr. Gambino and Congressman Murphy and was an accommodation to Congressman Murphy."
Oswald denied all of the other charges of impropriety in connection with the discussions cited in the ICC charges.
The ICC charged OSwald with disclosing confidential information to "individuals outside the commission."
Specfically, the ICC charged Oswald with violating its Canon of Conduct by obtaining information that he was specifically told could not be released.
Oswald admits "that on a number of occasions in 1973, 1974 and 1975 he did obtain non-released ICC material which was confidential and not available to the general public." But he adds that he did so "at the direction of the chairman and other members of the ICC for the purpose of informing members of Congress about commission decisions in which they had expressed an interest."
"The early release of commission decisions to members of Congress is wholly consonant with Mr. Oswald's function as Congressional Relations Officer," the statement from his lawyers states.
The ICC charged that Oswald asked Polydoroff to serve as local campaign treasurer for then-Congressman Bill Maillaird seeking re-election in California. This action, the ICC said, was "in violation of the Hatch Act."
Oswald "admits the essence of the allegations" in this charge, but he denied that Polydoroff was "in any sense acting as the local campaign treasurer." Oswald also says the charges are not in violation of the Hatch Act.
Here the ICC charges that Oswald asked attorney Polydoroff "not to place [Oswald] at any meeting where Tom Gambino . . . was present, and received an assurance from Mr. Polydoroff that he would not reveal the facts." According to the ICC, Oswald told Polydoroff that the Justice Dept. was investigating Oswald's activities.
Oswald "denies in any way attempting to have Mr. Polydoroff give false or misleading testimony to a grand jury."
The ICC finally charged Oswald with failing to cooperate in the ICC iternal investigation into his conduct.
Oswald replied by claiming the commission would not try to accommodate Oswald's right to counsel.
In summary, Oswald's attorneys claim that the charges are "a mishmash of incidents, basically innocent in themselves, which have been twisted and distorted to give the impression of illegality." They criticize the "overzealous conduct and cavalier attitude of the commission's staff."