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Why Is Doan Out?

The White House had any number of reasons to demand that General Services Administration Administrator Lurita Doan resign, which she did yesterday evening. Top of the list was probably when the independent Office of Special Counsel found last May that she was in violation of the Hatch Act, the law that’s supposed to keep partisan politics out of the federal bureaucracy.

But it would appear that Doan is finished not merely because of political maneuvering that backfired. While Doan’s violation of the Hatch Act has attracted the most national attention, it is her constant battles with employees at the GSA’s office of inspector general that have most marked her two-year tenure. The fact that she again blasted the people who audit GSA contracts may be the real reason for her dismissal.

Since becoming head of GSA, Doan has been in near-constant struggle with agency Inspector General Brian Miller. Doan has equated Miller with a terrorist for doing his job of auditing government contracts awarded by GSA. When Miller said that Doan was harassing and intimidating office of inspector general employees, Doan turned the tables and said it was Miller committing the harassment.

Doan has equated Miller with a terrorist for doing his job of auditing government contracts awarded by GSA. She filed a complaint to this effect last year with the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, the oversight body in charge of inspecting the inspectors general. As an independent federal agency, the performance of an inspector general can be reviewed by both the administrator and the PCIE. The PCIE found no wrongdoing, but recommended another independent review. So the charges were taken to a second oversight body, the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Vincent Mulloy, counsel to the inspector general at the Corporation for National and Community Service, found the charges against Miller groundless. Last March, Mulloy dismissed the harassment charges as "personnel management" concerns. "The complaint should be considered without merit, and closed, to end the distraction of GSA office of inspector general personnel from their duties," Mulloy wrote.

In response to the National and Community Services findings, Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Ia.) wrote a letter dated April 15 to Doan, telling her to consider the harassment matter closed. "I encourage you and IG Miller to demonstrate to all GSA employees the professionalism and character we all expect of top administrators in the Federal Government," Grassley wrote. "I trust that you will move past this matter and will work cooperatively with the GSA office of inspector general."

Grassley’s words were not heeded. Friday, Doan told Government Executive that her pursuit of Miller would not be dropped. Doan argued that National and Community Services did not interview the unidentified employees, who blew the whistle on Miller for creating a "hostile workplace."

"This issue will not be put to rest until their complaints are investigated and a finding of fact is made," Doan said. "Ignoring these complaints and pretending the program will self-correct is not going to work."

Doan’s email exchange with Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky looked like a full-blown return to her flamboyant past, when she was publicly unapologetic about possible Hatch Act violations, as well as charges of threatening employees and rewarding no-bid contracts to friends. Doan vowed to Brodsky that she will stay on the harassment issue "like a dog on a bone."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to comment at a press conference today about whether Doan’s continued pursuit of Miller was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Employees at the GSA’s Inspector General office described the mood as one of surprise and relief this morning.

Few had heard the decision before they came into work, even though Doan had emailed a resignation notice to GSA employees last night. Miller declined an interview but did release a statement. "We hope that the change at GSA will enable everyone in the agency to work more closely, together, now, in focusing on important tasks," the statement said. "Doing the best for American taxpayers should be our common goal."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, had called on Doan to resign in June due to the Hatch Act allegations, employee intimidation charges and possibly committing perjury in testimony before the committee. "GSA should now be able to return to its nonpartisan tradition and its work as our government’s premier contracting agency," Waxman said in a statement today.

Grassley, who has looked into Doan’s threats against the inspector general’s office for more than a year, said in a statement today that under Doan, "The taxpayer was not [GSA's] top concern. Instead, we found questionable actions, finger-pointing and stonewalling."

That Doan managed to stay in office after the independent Office of Special Counsel recommended she step down last May for Hatch Act Violations and employee intimidation was remarkable. It would seem that any further slip might force the White House to dismiss her, something that lawmakers and newspaper editorial boards widely called for and expected.

Doan has since laid low, perhaps not wanting to draw attention to her continued presence as GSA administrator. But her penchant for publicly rebuking Miller proved too hard to overcome.

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