A group of whistleblowers from within the Voice of America (VOA) news service are calling for a government investigation into the actions of Michael Pack, the former CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) which oversees VOA. The whistleblowers have detailed how Pack cost USAGM nearly $2 million by hiring a law firm to investigate VOA employees. The whistleblowers argue that this constitutes a gross waste of taxpayer dollars and an abuse of authority.
After Pack was appointed by then-President Trump in June 2020, he was the subject of numerous whistleblower disclosures from USAGM employees. Whistleblowers accused Pack of politicizing the agency, retaliating against employees who disagreed with him politically, abusing authority, and of gross mismanagement and waste of funds. Pack resigned from his position shortly after President Biden’s inauguration.
In January 2021, a group of whistleblowers came forward with allegations that Pack grossly wasted taxpayer dollars by hiring law firm McGuireWoods to investigate current and former USAGM employees. The whistleblowers claimed to possess information about payments over the previous three months of at least $2 million to McGuireWoods. Pack allegedly hired McGuireWoods after controversially removing six long-time senior USAGM officials. McGuireWoods was tasked with investigating current and former employees (including those removed by Pack) and performing follow-up audit compliance. The whistleblowers claim that Pack hired McGuireWoods to “justify the purge.”
Regardless of whether investigations into the removed employees were necessary, the whistleblowers claim that Pack’s hiring of McGuireWoods was a gross waste of funds because the work conducted by McGuireWoods “duplicate[s] the work of federal investigative, audit and personnel agencies.” The whistleblowers note that “[m]ultiple federal government organizations are responsible for the kind of work at issue here,” including the State Office of Inspector General (OIG), State OIG Office of Investigations, State OIG Office of Audits, and the USAGM’s Office of Human Resources, Labor and Employee Relations Division. “In sum, Mr. Pack hired McGuireWoods to perform work that could have and should have been provided by existing federal offices and staff,” the whistleblowers’ letter states.
The letter is addressed to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Appropriations, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Appropriations, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and the Department of State OIG. The whistleblowers conclude the letter by stating: “[t]his waste of government resources is shocking. We believe it likely that additional investigation will further reveal violations of law, rule and regulation, abuse of authority and gross mismanagement. We urge you to promptly conduct such an investigation and report on its findings.”
In February 2021, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) responded to the whistleblowers’ allegations. The OSC announced it had reviewed the allegations and determined there was a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing related to the payments to McGuireWoods. The OSC notified USAGM of its determination and ordered the head of the agency to investigate the matter.
On March 18, 2021 the group of anonymous whistleblowers sent another letter and added more details to their original allegations. This letter details the specific billings filed by McGuireWoods and also notes that Pack gave McGuireWoods the contract without taking bids from other law firms.
“This new data further attests to Michael Pack’s — and those who helped him — gross mismanagement, gross waste of taxpayer dollars, abuse of authority and violations of law, rule and regulation,” the letter states. “First, there was no need for the services rendered — no meaningful evidence was discovered and the investigated employees have been reinstated. Second, even if the services rendered could be justified (they cannot) they could have been provided by multiple federal agencies for free. Finally, even assuming outside help was needed (it was not), the cost to taxpayers would have been far lower had the usual federal contract bidding process been followed.”
“We accordingly urge you to specifically investigate the authority invoked and the representations made by Mr. Pack and others in order to pay these law firms, and any other contractors Mr. Pack hired during his brief and controversial tenure,” the letter concludes.