Thursday, August 31, 2006

Misuse by foreign broadcast chief

A US State Department investigation has found that the chairman of the organization that oversees most US international broadcasting misused government money on several occasions, US newspapers and news agencies reported on 29 August.According to a summary of a report by the State Department’s inspector-general released on the 29th and cited by the New York Times, Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), improperly put a friend on the payroll, used his office to run a “horse racing operation”, repeatedly used government employees to perform personal errands, and billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit.

“The State Department investigation found that Tomlinson, as a political appointee to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, signed invoices worth about 245,000 dollars for a friend without the knowledge of other board members or staff, ” the Associated Press reported.

Investigators noted in the summary of the report that the US attorney’s office in Washington had decided a criminal investigation was not warranted. A civil investigation, however, on charges stemming from hiring his friend as a contractor was still pending, the summary noted.

“Tomlinson, a Republican with close ties to the White House, was ousted last year from another post, at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, after another inquiry found evidence that he had violated rules meant to insulate public television and radio from political influence,” the New York Times reported.

On 30 August the Washington Post reported that the inspector-general’s report had been made public by three Democratic members of Congress: Representatives Howard Berman and Tom Lantos, both of California, and Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. The three legislators had requested the investigation in 2005 after being contacted by an anonymous BBG employee.

The Washington Post added that a White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said President Bush continued to support Tomlinson’s pending renomination as BBG chairman.

In a statement, Tomlinson said he believed the investigation results were “inspired by partisan divisions inside the BBG”.

(Source: BBC Monitoring research 30 Aug 06/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)