- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

AMBASSADORIAL BULLY

The former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, a close political ally of President Obama‘s, was so “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating” to her staff that she drove several top diplomats to appeal for transfers from the posh northern European nation to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a State Department report.

Cynthia Stroum, a Seattle business executive who raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, resigned in late January, about two weeks before the internal report from the department’s inspector general’s office began appearing on the Internet. She said she wanted to spend more time with her family and that she had responded to the findings but could not discuss the report.

The 61-page report, which covered her 14 months in the tiny constitutional monarchy, said: “The ambassador’s confrontational management style, chronic gaps in senior staffing caused by curtailments and an absence of a sense of direction have brought major elements of Embassy Luxembourg to a state of dysfunction.

“Morale among Americans and local staff is very low, and stress levels are very high. Most employees describe the ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating, which has resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy and uncertain work environment.”

Ms. Stroum also told her staff that she had the right to snoop on their official e-mails, although State Department policy places restrictions on ambassadors’ access to staff computer messages.

“In the psychological atmosphere of the embassy, some interpreted this as a direct warning that she would have access to messages to the [office of inspector general] and other department offices,” the report said.

Ms. Stroum, 60, was preoccupied with remodeling the bathrooms of the ambassador’s residence, which required major repairs to the plumbing, electrical and telecommunications systems, the report said. The State Department budgeted $1.5 million for the renovation.

An embassy employee screened 200 houses and apartments to find her a temporary residence, but she rejected most of the real estate. Two diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Belgium traveled to Luxembourg to help with the search.

Shortly after arriving in Luxembourg, Ms. Stroum purchased a queen-sized mattress and box springs, saying she was displeased with the condition of the existing bed at the ambassador’s residence. The State Department refused to reimburse her for the purchase, but the embassy later repaid her in violation of department policy, the report said.

Aside from her personality disputes, Ms. Stroum failed to maintain the embassy’s most important function of tracking any money-laundering and terrorist-financing activities in Luxembourg, a major global banking center, the report said.

Under her mismanagement, the embassy played “no significant role in policy advocacy or reporting, though developments in Luxembourg are certainly of interest to Washington and other U.S. missions in the NATO and [European Union] communities,” it added.

The report said “most of the senior staff” had either cut short their tours in Luxembourg or asked for transfers to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Ms. Stroum, whose resignation took effect Jan. 31, said in a statement, “The reality is that I now need to focus on my family.

“While I will be returning to Seattle, I will always have great affection for Luxembourg as my second home,” she said.

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