Under Fire, Top Official Resigns Post

By Justin Rood

Jun 8, 2007 1:09pm

The embattled top cop at the U.S. Department of Commerce resigned yesterday, shortly after a federal investigation concluded he had violated laws protecting whistle-blowers. Commerce Inspector General Johnnie E. Frazier had faced investigations by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and a White House integrity panel for a laundry list of allegations ranging from fraud and abuse to retaliation against employees who reported wrongdoing. "I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge my disappointment and outright sadness at leaving Commerce at a time when my office and I are the subject of controversy," Frazier wrote President Bush in his June 7 letter of resignation. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Blotter Staffers Call for Special Probe of Watchdog Blotter Federal Watchdogs Facing New Scrutiny Blotter Anti-Fraud Official Faces Fraud Probe Click Here to Check Out Brian Ross Slideshows But "it does not diminish my pride in and gratitude for the wonderful career I have been blessed with here at Commerce, or my appreciation for the countless outstanding people I have had the good fortune to work with along the way," Frazier wrote. In a report dated May 25, the Office of Special Counsel concluded Frazier, whose job includes protecting whistle-blowers, had violated prohibitions against punishing subordinates who tell authorities allegations of misbehavior. Last October, Frazier reassigned two senior employees to posts that could be considered demotions after they reported an incident of possible fraud by the inspector general himself. In a May 17 letter, Frazier disagreed with the report’s findings. "With all due respect, you are wrong to conclude that I have retaliated against two…employees," he wrote Special Counsel Scott Bloch, responding to a draft of Bloch’s report. Frazier said he reassigned the employees because of "the complete collapse of…my relationship" with one of the complainants and "the toxic environment that this created" in his office. Frazier accused the employees of "fabricating" their charges to discredit him because "I had lost all faith and confidence and them." In a response to Frazier’s letter, Bloch noted that Frazier had never documented any loss of faith or confidence in the pair. Neither had he recorded any deficiencies in the employees’ performance, Bloch’s office wrote. According to OSC, Frazier had even glowingly characterized the performance of one of them in a document he provided Bloch’s investigators. Frazier’s resignation is effective June 29. Photo is courtesy of the Department of Commerce. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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