A scorching report card for our Romanian envoy

Rosapepe supporters dismiss the criticism of former Md. delegate

December 22, 1999|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Less than two years after being appointed ambassador to Romania, former Maryland Del. James C. Rosapepe is the focus of an internal, highly negative State Department report on the Bucharest embassy.

Among the report's conclusions: Under Rosapepe's tenure embassy morale has plunged; the State Department has received "inadequate" information on Romanian affairs; Romanian nationals are sometimes used as "private advisers" to the exclusion of U.S. staffers; and communications with Washington are often "tilted towards the Romanian perspective."

Rosapepe, 48, did a good job of securing Romania's support for NATO's war against Yugoslavia and has done well in promoting U.S.-Romanian trade and putting the American viewpoint across to Romanian news organizations, said the report, issued by the department's Office of Inspector General.

But in seven leadership and management areas, Rosapepe's scores "were the lowest recorded for any of the 136 ambassadors, charges d'affaires and assistant or deputy assistant secretaries rated by their staffs since 1991," said the report.

The report gave Rosapepe credit for several policy accomplishments, particularly helping to persuade key Romanian legislators to permit NATO planes to traverse Romanian air space during the Kosovo war. He prefers "results to reports," the report said.

Indeed, the ambassador's supporters say, preferring results over paperwork is the sum of the case against him, and it doesn't amount to much. While Rosapepe may have alienated staffers and failed to pay the home office enough attention, they said, he delivered on basic State Department goals.

"He pushed his staff hard, including me, but that's what managers do," said Charles Lewis, a Justice Department organized- crime specialist who is stationed in Bucharest. "During my time here, the single biggest issue was the war in Serbia. It was key that Romania support the NATO effort. The record will bear out that they did, and that was because of our efforts."

Rosapepe, reached in Bucharest, declined to speak extensively on the record.

But he said: "I'm proud of the job we've done, and I think we accomplished a lot," including improving consular services and promoting U.S investment in Romania, including large deals by G.E. Capital and GTE Corp.

Rosapepe assumed the ambassadorship in early 1998. He is a longtime supporter of President Clinton who has lobbied on Capitol Hill in Washington and has had interests in several small businesses in addition to his legislative work in Annapolis.

The Clinton administration has appointed a higher-than-average number of politically connected ambassadors, which hurts morale among the career professionals working their way toward a top State Department job, said Marshall Adair, president of the American Foreign Service Association, which represents career State Department staff.

"You have to make sure that the people that you send to represent our country as ambassadors are qualified to do so," said Adair, commenting on political appointees generally rather than specifically on Rosapepe.

The internal State Department report on the Romanian embassy, issued in September and disclosed by the Boston Globe this week, was prepared by the department's inspector general's office, which routinely audits the performance of embassies and other operations.

The U.S. mission in Romania has more than 300 employees; about 45 are Americans.

The report is especially harsh on the Bucharest embassy's failure to send frequent and relevant reports on Romanian affairs and political trends to Washington.

U.S. government analysts who rely on embassy reports gave comments on Bucharest's cables "ranging from dismissive to derisive," the inspector general's report said.

"At a time when Romania is at a crucial stage in its transformation from a communist economy to a free-market society," the report said, "those who need to keep up on Romanian events have developed their own sources, and the embassy is not the first among them."

The report criticized Rosapepe for meeting repeatedly with top Romanian officials without filing reports of the meetings with Washington.

It also painted a gloomy picture of embassy morale, saying "there is little in the way of inspiring, motivating leadership" under Rosapepe. The inspector general's auditors questioned 44 embassy staffers on Rosapepe's skills in management, diplomacy and other areas.

He delivered e-mails and other communications to embassy staffers that "verge on intimidation," the internal report said. The ambassador increased the responsibilities of some Romanian citizens who work for the embassy, causing confusion about lines of authority and further damaging morale, it said.

Rosapepe's supporters portrayed the report as a witch hunt by a hidebound State Department bureaucracy that is threatened by a high-energy, innovative ambassador.

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