President Reagan sees nothing wrong with having a $58,500-a-year federal employe chop wood and do ranch work at his California home and will continue taking the aide there, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said yesterday.
Speakes criticized reports suggesting that it was inappropriate for Reagan to use Dennis E. LeBlanc, an associate administrator of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to work at his ranch. Speakes said that LeBlanc had helped install special presidential communications and security devices there when Reagan became president and returns to make sure the equipment functions properly, in addition to working as a handyman.
Speakes added that LeBlanc is not given additional vacation time to accompany the president to California, but is detailed to the White House from his regular job.
"I think it the story is overblown," Speakes told reporters at a White House news briefing. " . . . I haven't asked the president in those terms, but I don't think he has any quarrel with what Dennis is doing. He said he planned to have Dennis go out there with him again."
Speakes noted that the president "is on the payroll and he is chopping his own wood."
Speakes described LeBlanc as "an old friend" of Reagan's who spent "considerable time" on the ranch with the president when he was governor of California.
Speakes said that reporters had "oversimplified and overblown the story all at the same time, which is hard to do."
As a California state policeman, LeBlanc was a member of Reagan's security detail when Reagan was governor.
LeBlanc later worked full time for Reagan, helping to manage the ranch, before getting a job in the White House's Office of Special Support Services when Reagan became president.