The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is the Legal Services Corp. They get the award for the following.
WASHINGTON - Directors of the government's legal aid program for the poor secretly debated how to fire the auditor who exposed their expensive meals, use of limousine services and headquarters move to a ritzy neighborhood.Of course Legal Services Directors want Mr. West fired. He's threatening to bring their party to an end. A taxpayer supported party. For wasting taxpayer money and trying to fire the messenger, the Legal Services Corp. is today's knucklehead of the day.
Meeting transcripts obtained by The Associated Press show that Legal Services Corp. board members in 2005 and 2006 disparaged Inspector General Kirt West, whose job is to find fraud, waste and abuse.
In private, the board derided West as abusive, a character assassin, a shoddy investigator with a delusional staff and someone with a "fetish" for independence — even though independence is an inspector general's hallmark.
Board members warned themselves to be careful in their actions toward the internal watchdog, fearful that retaliation would anger Congress and jeopardize their federal dollars.
While board members complained among themselves about how much time they spent discussing their watchdog, the corporation said in a public report that the program for free legal help turned away half the applicants for lack of resources.
Some board members expressed their fears of angering Congress, the source of their funding, by leaving the perception they were retaliating against the inspector general who investigated their actions.
Those fears proved accurate when the board was ready to discuss West's status at a meeting in St. Louis last April. Two senators and a House member, who learned the directors had secretly debated firing West in secret meetings, were convinced that the board would take action in the April session.
Just as the directors were ready to convene after lunch, a congressional aide hand-delivered a letter to the board chairman, Atlanta lawyer Frank Strickland.
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and Rep. Christopher Cannon, R-Utah, warned Strickland that any attempt to fire West "would be an egregious action in light of the fact that Mr. West is investigating you, the LSC board, as well as your president."
West still has his job.
He conducted an expansive review of spending by board members, who are part-time, and top full-time program executives. According to an Associated Press account in August, some of the questionable spending that West brought to light included:
_$14 "death-by-chocolate" desserts.
_$400 for a car and driver to take Strickland and other officials to attend meetings and functions within cab distance of the Legal Services headquarters.
_$200 taxi rides in Ireland by the Legal Services president, Helaine Barnett, who was attending a conference.
West also reported the corporation was overpaying by as much as $1.8 million on its 10-year lease in its new headquarters in the upscale Georgetown section of Washington. He also found that the corporation could be overpaying by $7 million for unneeded space.
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