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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/3/20

U.S.Office of Special Counsel Finds "Substantial Likelihood" of WrongDoing By Voice of America

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Government Accountability Project Applauds U.S. Office of Special Counsel for Finding "Substantial Likelihood" of Wrongdoing by Voice of America/U.S. Agency for Global Media Political Leadership

WASHINGTON Over the past three months, Government Accountability Project has filed multiple whistleblower complaints with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) alleging that Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Pack and other political leadership at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) who oversee Voice of America (VOA) engaged in gross mismanagement; abused their authority; violated laws, rules, or regulations; and created a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.

OSC reviewed the allegations and, following its independent assessment, determined there was a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing. It directed CEO Pack to investigate and report back to OSC on the following actions that have occurred since June 2020 (when CEO Pack was confirmed by the US Senate):

  • Repeatedly violated the Voice of America firewall the law that protects VOA journalists' "professional independence and integrity";
  • Engaged in gross mismanagement and abuse of authority by:
    • Terminating the presidents of each USAGM-funded network: Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting as well as the president and the CEO of the Open Technology Fund;
    • Dismissing the bipartisan board members that governed the USAGM-funded networks, replacing those board members with largely political appointees, and designating the USAGM CEO as chairman;
    • Revoking all authority from various members of USAGM's Senior Executive Service (SES) and reassigning those authorities to political appointees outside of the relevant offices;
    • Removing the VOA Editor for News Standards and Best Practices a central figure in the VOA editorial standards process and a critical component of the VOA firewall - from his position and leaving that position vacant;
    • Similarly removing the Executive Editor of RFA;
    • Suspending the security clearances of six of USAGM's 10 SES members and placing them on administrative leave; and
    • Prohibiting several offices critical to USAGM's mission - including the Offices of General Counsel, Chief Strategy, and Congressional and Public Affairs - from communicating with outside parties without the front office's express knowledge and consent;
  • Improperly froze all agency hiring, contracting, and Information Technology migrations, and either refused to approve such decisions or delayed approval until the outside reputation and/or continuity of agency or network operations, and at times safety of staff, were threatened;
  • Illegally repurposed, and pressured career staff to illegally repurpose, congressionally appropriated funds and programs without notifying Congress; and
  • Refused to authorize the renewal of the visas of non-U.S. citizen journalists working for the agency, endangering both the continuity of agency operations and those individuals' safety.

By statute, USAGM was ordered to provide a written response to OSC within 60 days for further evaluation. OSC has so informed CEO Pack.

OSC findings of "substantial likelihood" are notable and rare. OSC explains on its website that "[t]o meet the substantial likelihood threshold there must be a significant probability that the information reveals wrongdoing that falls within one or more of [the five] categories. In its evaluation, OSC considers the strength, reliability, and credibility of the disclosures." For the past few years, OSC has received nearly 6,000 new filings per year from federal employees either identifying wrongdoing or seeking relief from retaliation or other prohibited personnel practices.

David Z. Seide, Senior Counsel at Government Accountability Project stated:

"Our clients - current and former staff at USAGM, VOA and its sibling organizations - have reported to federal whistleblower agencies egregious and continuing acts of wrongdoing by Mr. Pack and his enablers. It is gratifying that one of those agencies, OSC, has independently determined that there is a significant probability that our clients' information reveals wrongdoing. It is a significant step, but far from the last one."

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034

Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

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