Federal Inquiry Finds Trump-Appointed CEO Abused Power at Voice of America
A federal inquiry has found numerous incidents of wrongdoing by a Trump appointee who served as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America, including attempting to force out agency executives for their political beliefs.
The Office of Special Counsel found that “during his less-than-eight-month tenure CEO [Michael] Pack was responsible for numerous improper activities,” including “abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, or a violation of law, rule, or regulation.” The OSC’s report concluded that Pack “abused his authority and retaliated against career USAGM executives who engaged in whistleblowing.”
The day following his confirmation as CEO of USAGM, Pack and a career employee met to decide which executives to target based on their perceived political beliefs. In a memo, an employee wrote about the alleged beliefs of the senior leaders at Voice of America, according to NPR. “Hates Republicans,” the employee said of one senior leader. “Openly despises Trump and Republicans,” the memo described another. The memo alleged that a third senior leader “is not on the Trump team.”
As CEO, Park rescinded the security clearances of six members of USAGM’s Senior Executive Service. After the suspensions, Pack “then hired a private law firm to provide post-hoc justifications” for his actions, the report said. It further alleges Pack suspended security clearances, rather than removing the executives in other ways, in order to “circumvent otherwise available procedural protections and legal restrictions on removal of executives.”
USAGM has oversight of Voice of America and other broadcast outlets, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia, that are funded by the federal government. These outlets are designed to bring news to nations where a free press is repressed or not financially viable.
OSC found that Pack interfered with independent journalism at Voice of America and other outlets he oversaw; retaliated against executives who filed whistleblower complaints; and mismanaged and wasted funds by paying $1.6 million in a confidential, no-bid contract to a Virginia law firm to investigate USAGM executives. Pack also “restricted employee communications with outside parties [and] failed to exempt legally protected disclosures.”
Park, in an interview with The Federalist quoted by NPR, said that his decisions were made “to drain the swamp, to root out corruption and to deal with these issues of bias.”