No White House firings likely over travel office

July 02, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- White House officials said yesterday that the internal review of their handling of the travel office affair, which is to be made public today, outlined a series of management errors on the part of aides but did not recommend any dismissals or job transfers.

Also yesterday, officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said its investigation had turned up no evidence of criminal behavior by the seven members of the White House travel office who were summarily dismissed after accusations of mismanagement.

White House spokesmen said the seven were dismissed for gross mismanagement and possible criminal behavior after $18,000 in travel office money could not be accounted for in a review of the office books.

The White House review was led by Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, the chief of staff, and Leon E. Panetta, the budget director. A senior official said it would point out a variety of White House "management deficiencies" and would recommend guidelines to redress them.

Among the errors cited, the official said, would be the summary dismissals, without appeal, even though only two of those dismissed had handled money in the office. The report will also chastise White House staff members for calling in the FBI, without going through the Justice Department hierarchy, to investigate the matter and for issuing an FBI statement in support of the White House's contention that possible criminal behavior had occurred.

The official, who spoke only on the condition that he not be identified, said no one would be asked to resign or change jobs.

"It points out the deficiencies in an honest and frank manner and lays out how we can correct them," the official said.

In May, the White House dismissed the staff of the travel office, which handles travel arrangements for both staff members and journalists, and replaced them with a distant relative of President Clinton's, Cathy Cornelius, who had been seeking the job.

White House officials said at the time that the move was prompted by a review that had turned up mismanagement in the office, including overbilling, bad accounting and an absence of competitive bidding.

The affair quickly erupted into an embarrassment for the White ++ House as documents were disclosed indicating that Ms.

Cornelius had long recommended sweeping out the staff and replacing its employees with a Little Rock, Ark., travel agency.

It was also revealed that a friend of the president's, Harry Thomason, who has an interest in an airline leasing company, had complained about the travel office's unwillingness to consider business from his associates.

As the disclosures multiplied, the White House abruptly reinstated five of the dismissed workers.

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