Former U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO that oversees Voice of America, Michael Pack, contracted with a private law firm to investigate his own staff, a task usually done by government specialists. Mr. Pack, an appointee of former President Donald Trump was irate because he could not simply fire top executives who had warned him that some of his plans might be illegal. In August, Mr. Pack suspended those top executives. He immediately ordered up an investigation to determine what wrongdoing the executives might have committed.
Instead of turning to inspectors general or civil servants to investigate, Mr. Pack personally signed a no-bid contract to hire a high-profile law firm with strong Republican ties. The bill — paid by taxpayers — exceeded $1 million in just the first few months of the contract.
Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit that represents federal whistleblowers accusing Pack and some of his inner circle of breaking U.S. laws and regulations, shared an analysis of documents related to the contract between Mr. Pack and the law firm.
“The engagement constitutes gross mismanagement, gross waste of taxpayer dollars and abuse of authority,” David Seide of the Government Accountability Project, wrote in a letter to congressional committees with oversight of the USAGM. “The investigations produced nothing that could justify the kind of discipline Mr. Pack sought to impose on current USAGM employees he did not like — he wanted them fired (they have since been reinstated). Investigations of former employees also yielded nothing.”
Defined by scandal at Voice of America, CEO has resigned at Biden’s request. The new acting CEO Kelu Chao, a former senior Voice of America official, was appointed by President Biden on the day of his inauguration. She has brought back many of the executives that Pack suspended and investigated.
USAGM is the parent agency of Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other networks that cover news for people living in nations overseas. They reach an estimated combined audience of more than 360 million people each week, providing news for countries where a free press is either not financially viable or under assault from repressive regimes.
NPR Edited version