Staffers Call for Special Probe of Watchdog

A group of anonymous employees are asking President Bush to fire their boss, the top watchdog at the Commerce Department, and opt for a special counsel to investigate him.

Commerce Inspector General Johnnie E. Frazier is already being investigated by a congressional committee, the Office of Special Counsel and the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE), for charges ranging from retaliation against subordinates to fraud, contract abuse and wasteful spending. Frazier's job is ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse at the Commerce Department.

"Johnnie E. Frazier should be order to conduct an effective, 'independent' investigation," states the letter to Bush, which was written on official stationery bearing the logo of the Commerce Department Inspector General's Office.


The May 10 letter also calls for the president to put Frazier's senior aides on administrative leave, alleging they have conspired with Frazier to obstruct justice and retaliate against employees who have cooperated with investigators.

Frazier, a career government investigator, was appointed to his current post by former President Bill Clinton in 1999.

A copy of the letter was also sent to Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On Friday, Dingell's panel wrote Frazier to ask he leave his employees alone and to remind his senior aides to do the same.

"The Committee requests that you immediately remind all managers within your office is a violation of Federal law to interfere with a Congressional inquiry," the panel wrote and reiterated its call for Frazier to suspend all terminations, new hiring, promotions or transfers until after its investigation is complete.

Frazier's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When news of investigations into Frazier surfaced two weeks ago, his office released a statement which said it was "cooperating fully" with investigators.

Frazier is one of four sitting inspectors general who have faced investigations of his conduct in recent months. Others include NASA Inspector General Robert W. "Moose" Cobb, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen and Environmental Protection Agency Acting Inspector General Bill Roderick.  Bowen has denied the charges against him, made by former employees; neither Cobb nor Roderick have commented publicly on the probes they have faced.

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