Voice of America overseer spent $2 million investigating employees, complaint alleges

This article features Government Accountability Project and was originally published here.

The head of Voice of America’s parent agency hired a law firm at a rate of about $500 an hour and spent $2 million in taxpayer funds to compile personnel dossiers on managers he had targeted for removal, according to a complaint filed Tuesday.

The accusation, contained in a whistleblower complaint, is the latest claim of impropriety against Michael Pack, a conservative Trump appointee who has sought to reshape VOA and four other government-funded international news networks since becoming their overseer in June.

During his short tenure, Pack has generated controversy by removing veteran managers, accusing VOA of harboring foreign spies and seeking to influence VOA’s news coverage, despite regulations barring political appointees from doing so. A federal judge in November prohibited him from violating the editorial “firewall” and interfering in editorial decisions.

In addition, the District of Columbia’s attorney general sued Pack earlier this month, alleging that he had enriched himself by funneling more than $4 million to the private filmmaking company he formerly ran through a nonprofit entity that he also controlled.

The latest allegation comes from the Government Accountability Project, a law firm that represents government whistleblowers, including those at the federal government’s U.S. Agency for Global Media, which is run by Pack. USAGM manages VOA, Radio Free Asia and three other entities that report news for international audiences.

It alleges that Pack hired a leading law firm, McGuireWoods, to investigate current and former employees. The law firm has billed USAGM about $2 million over the past three months, according to the complaint, or roughly $500 per hour for 4,000 hours of work.

It called the expenditure “a gross waste of government resources,” given that government agencies, including USAGM’s own employees, routinely handle such matters.

It also suggested that Pack’s intent was to compile evidence to support his own decisions. Pack hired the law firm on Aug. 12, it said — the same day he removed six senior USAGM officials, including its executive director, general counsel and chief financial officer.

Among the law firm’s duties was to compile personnel records on the suspended employees and gather information about the Open Technology Fund, an independent nonprofit organization that receives grants from Pack’s agency, according to the complaint. Pack has sought to cut funding to the organization and has been engaged in a legal dispute with it.

The complaint names John D. Adams, a McGuireWoods partner, as the lead attorney working for Pack. Neither Pack nor Adams, a former Republican candidate for state attorney general in Virginia in 2017, responded to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Project, which represents USAGM employees, sent its complaint to House and Senate committees that have oversight of USAGM, and to the federal offices of Special Counsel and Inspector General of the State Department. It urged that they investigate Pack.