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State Dept. Finds Voice of America Chief Misused Funds, Violated Rules

By Stephen Labaton
THE NEW YORK TIMES


WASHINGTON

State Department investigators have found that the head of the agency overseeing most government broadcasts to foreign countries has used his office to run a “horse racing operation” and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll, according to a summary of a report made public on Tuesday by a Democratic lawmaker.

The report said that the official, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, had repeatedly used government employees to perform personal errands and that he billed the government for more days of work than the rules permit.

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 summary of the report, prepared by the State Department inspector general, said the U.S. attorney’s office here had been given the report and decided not to conduct a criminal inquiry.

The summary said the Justice Department was pursuing a civil inquiry focusing on the contract for Tomlinson’s friend.

Through his lawyer, James Hamilton, Tomlinson issued a statement denying that he had done anything improper. The office of the State Department inspector general presented the findings from its yearlong inquiry last week to the White House and on Monday to some members of Congress.

Three Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Reps. Howard L. Berman and Tom Lantos of California, requested the inquiry after a whistleblower from the agency had approached them about the possible misuse of federal funds by Tomlinson and the possible hiring of phantom or unqualified employees.

Tomlinson’s renomination to a new term as chairman of the State Department office that oversees foreign broadcasts, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is pending before the Senate.

Tomlinson’s position at the broadcasting board makes him one of the administration’s top officials overseeing public diplomacy and puts him in charge of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

The State Department report noted his use of his office to oversee a stable of thoroughbreds but did not mention one specific way in which his professional responsibilities and personal interests appear to have intersected.

The lawmakers who requested the inquiry sent a letter to the president on Tuesday urging him to remove Tomlinson from his position immediately “and take all necessary steps to restore the integrity of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.”