- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Karla W. Corcoran, the inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service, agreed to retire Tuesday after a federal investigation affirmed charges that she abused her authority, wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and mistreated subordinates in her office.

As first reported in The Washington Times in February, Mrs. Corcoran was accused by scores of current and former employees of the Postal Service’s Inspector General’s Office of rampant mismanagement and was the subject of a congressional inquiry and an investigation by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said the results of the final report on Mrs. Corcoran were “simply stunning” and called the “resignation a step in the right direction” for the post office inspector general.

“Without question, these findings confirm the concerns I’ve been expressing publicly since the beginning of my investigation” in October, Mr. Grassley said. “Someone must be making sure that taxpayers’ money is invested wisely.”

Mrs. Corcoran was the top watchdog of the Postal Service, whose job it was to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse. She was the first and only person to hold that position, created in 1996, which paid $142,500 a year to oversee the Postal Service’s 750,000 employees and $65 billion annual budget.

Her replacement, David C. Williams, who has served as an inspector general at four different federal agencies, takes over immediately. He was chosen after “an extensive five-month recruitment effort,” according to a Postal Service press release, suggesting that Mrs. Corcoran was told to either resign or be fired, said a staffer close to the investigation.

“It requires a little bit of reading between the lines,” he said.

Attempts to reach Mrs. Corcoran for comment yesterday were not successful. In an e-mail sent to employees Tuesday afternoon, however, she boasted of saving the Postal Service $2.3 billion and urged the employees she is leaving behind to “carry on.”

“Remember that fear of the unknown can paralyze. Don’t let it — keep moving forward, be daring!” Mrs. Corcoran wrote in the message that included an inspirational poem.

The 400-plus page President’s Council report concluded that Mrs. Corcoran spent from her budget “extravagantly,” followed “a pattern and practice of unprofessional conduct,” and “hindered” the council’s investigation into the allegations.

Among the faults found by the council:

• Spending more than $1 million for each of the last three annual employee meetings, including paying the author of the pop-psychology “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books a $14,000 speaking fee and spending $3,700 in first-class airfare to fly him to Washington.

• Humiliating employees by yelling at them in public and using obscenities.

• Screaming at senior staff in voice-mail messages, including one to a senior executive immediately after the staffer had a heart attack.

• Personally phoning current and former staffers and leaving “threatening messages” regarding the council’s investigation, and instructing a senior-level staffer to do the same.

Mrs. Corcoran also came under criticism for what she called her “values-based” management style that critics said placed too much emphasis on “feelings” and not enough on investigating the Postal Service.

“[Inspector generals] are watchdogs charged with assuring taxpayers that they are not getting ripped off,” Mr. Grassley said. “They are not put in place to create some sort of ‘cult-like’ organization that prizes values over technical competency.”

In her farewell letter, Mrs. Corcoran said she will always remember her “time here with great fondness and a strong sense of satisfaction for a job well done.” She also noted that she “could not have hoped for a better successor.”

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