- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2010

Three senior Republican lawmakers are calling for an investigation on whether to fire a pair of top Amtrak executives in the wake of a report accusing the rail service of getting rid of its inspector general after he uncovered waste and abuse in the top reaches of the company.

In a letter Thursday to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the lawmakers accuse Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper and General Counsel Eleanor Acheson of “unlawfully” interfering with the independence of the taxpayer-funded company’s inspector general, who is charged with rooting out corruption and mismanagement.

The letter cites a report released earlier this month by a pair of congressional Republicans that concluded Amtrak never told Congress last year it forced out longtime inspector general Fred Weiderhold, despite a law requiring prior notice.

The report, released by Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa of California, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also stated that Mr. Weiderhold was targeted because of his “effective track record of exposing waste, fraud and abuse at the highest levels within Amtrak.”

The Republican lawmakers and Rep. John Mica of Florida, ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, signed a letter Thursday sent to Mr. LaHood calling on him to review the actions of Mr. Carper and Ms. Acheson to determine whether they should be fired.

“The unlawful actions of Chairman Carper and [General Counsel] Acheson impeded the effectiveness of Amtrak’s OIG to such an extent that we intend to ask for their removal pending an independent investigation by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

Mr. Mica, who called for an investigation of Amtrak’s legal expenses in 2005, said the “pattern of mismanagement” at Amtrak was “unprofessional and possibly in violation of the law.”

An Amtrak official said the rail agency is all for an independent review of its handling of the inspector general situation.

“Amtrak is committed to an independent Office of Inspector General that operates under best practices, consistent with the Inspector General Act,” Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said.

“We will be prepared to fully cooperate with any review performed by the Department of Transportation into the issues and actions surrounding the retirement of a former Amtrak inspector general. We favor the transparency such a review will provide.”

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