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Voice of America whistleblowers call for investigation into previous CEO

Voice of America whistleblowers call for investigation into previous CEO
© YouTube/USAGM

A coalition of whistleblowers is calling for a government probe into the former head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media who spent nearly $2 million in federal funds investigating Voice of America employees.

Pack, a Trump appointee who was dismissed by President BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE just hours after he took office, authorized contracts to investigate seven employees he had dismissed and placed on administrative leave as CEO of the agency.

The agency had a rocky few years during the Trump administration and under Pack's leadership, with critics accusing him of politicizing Voice of America and carrying out acts of retribution against employees he perceived as having an anti-Trump bias.

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Pack faced complaints from more than 30 whistleblowers during his tenure, and new documents shared with The Hill detail the dollar amounts spent by the agency to investigate its own employees.

Over a four-month period, the law firm McGuireWoods LLP billed approximately $1.63 million in fees, while Caplin & Drysdale received a $66,000 contract.

David Seide, the attorney representing the whistleblowers, said the government should investigate how Pack was able to quickly award “sole source” contracts that bypassed the federal contract bidding process.

“There are plenty of law firms. If they put it out for bid they would have gotten it at substantially lower price,” he said, noting that other federal agencies also may have been able to provide the same service for free.

The billing primarily covered “document production,” something Seide said involved reviewing the emails of the dismissed employees who had filed for whistleblower protections.

“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,” Seide wrote in a letter Thursday to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Inspector General at the State Department requesting an investigation.

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The U.S. Agency for Global Media did not respond to a request for comment.

The agency reinstated five of the seven dismissed employees in mid-February with Kelu Chao, acting CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, describing each employee as going “to great lengths to try to defend the firewall,” designed to block agency staff from interfering with the news judgment and editorial independence of Voice of America.

“They didn't find anything. These employees they went after — there's no there there, Seide said.

In the final weeks of the Trump administration, the District of Columbia's attorney general accused Pack, a longtime conservative filmmaker, of funneling more than $4 million to his documentary company through a nonprofit he also runs.