Watchdog: Former Pentagon spokeswoman misused staff for personal errands

Watchdog: Former Pentagon spokeswoman misused staff for personal errands
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The Pentagon's former top spokeswoman misused staff to perform personal errands, including driving her to and from work, picking up her dry cleaning and scheduling makeup appointments at her home, the Defense Department's watchdog agency has found.

The department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded that Dana White “misused her subordinates' time for personal services and improperly accepted gifts from her subordinates” in violation of Pentagon ethics rules, the report released Thursday states.

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White resigned in December after former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE stepped down from the Trump administration. She had served in the top communications role since April 2017.

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“The services occurred both during and after official duty hours” and included “making arrangements for her personal travel, obtaining lunch and snacks for her, scheduling makeup appointments at her residence, making an ATM cash withdrawal on her behalf, ordering personal stationery for her, driving her to and from work on a snow day, and dropping off and picking up her dry cleaning,” the report states.

On two occasions, White “allowed her subordinates to use their privately-owned vehicles to drive her to the Pentagon and another location” and "also accepted pantyhose from one of her subordinates."

She was cleared, however, of accusations that she failed to treat staff with respect.

The report included a response from White’s lawyer, who said the conclusions were “erroneous.”

White was “justified in having subordinates assist her,” the tasks in question were job-related and “the government did not suffer any loss, and Ms. White did not realize any gain from them,” the lawyer wrote.

Later, White provided a statement to The Hill in which she said she was "very disappointed" with the OIG's conclusions. 

"Every decision I made was to advance our mission and maximize our impact. I relied and acted on the advice of the DOD Office of General Counsel to make all of these decisions. The OIG, however, chose to ignore this fact," White said.

"Instead, OIG has unfairly maligned routine acts of kindness done in every office in the Pentagon. To consider any such acts as an intentional and improper acceptance of a gift puts at risk all employees who work collaboratively to support one another in their work. The DOD OIG went so far as to criticize me for paying-with my own money-for weekly flower deliveries to spruce up our office and a make-up artist for my on-camera briefings," she added.

Under Pentagon ethics rules, employee are prohibited from using their subordinates “to perform activities other than those required in the performance of official duties.”

The inspector general opened the investigation when at least two of White’s subordinates complained in late April and early May 2018.

A separate allegation, which accused White’s deputy, Charles Summers, of failing to take appropriate action regarding White’s alleged misuse of her staff, was found unsupported.

White was Mattis’s assistant Defense secretary for public affairs for just over a year and a half before she resigned. 

Before that, White founded and served as CEO of a Washington, D.C., strategic communications firm and was a staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Updated: 5:36 p.m.