Oversight

Rep. Thompson wants better answers from DHS on Spires

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)

House Homeland Security Committee ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has told DHS officials to try again in addressing his questions about former CIO Richard Spires. (File photo)

On April 19, House Homeland Security Committee ranking member Bennie Thompson's (D-Miss.) submitted a formal inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security regarding former CIO Richard Spires, asking again for a detailed explanation into the leave of absence that precipitated Spires' resignation effective May 17.

Thompson was not satisfied with DHS' initial response – a one-page document that arrived seven days late -- so on May 22 he authored a second inquiry, in which he demands that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano ensure the questions are answered in detailed, narrative form by May 28.

In the request, Thompson states that DHS has been uncooperative with committee staffers who urged the department to "reconsider its vague response" to his initial inquiry, and described DHS' answers regarding acting CIO Margie Graves as a "vague biographical sketch akin to those readily available on the Department’s website."

"To date, without any explanation or justification, the Department has indicated that it will not provide the detailed answers I seek," Thompson wrote.

In its response to Thompson’s initial April 19 request, DHS' assistant secretary for legislative affairs said that "contrary to media reports, Mr. Spires was not placed in an administrative leave status" -- a position DHS officials have maintained since news of Spires' leave first broke on April 1. Yet the response stated any discussion on why Spires would take leave and resign was prohibited for “personnel and privacy rules." The letter also stated that Spires' leave was unrelated to congressional testimony he delivered on Feb. 27, or the testimony he had been scheduled to deliver March 19.

FCW has reported throughout that Spires' leave was categorized as elected, not administrative. Yet several sources both inside DHS and out maintain that the nearly two-month leave, whatever its official status, was not of Spires' choosing, and may have resulted from friction regarding CIO authority.

The DHS Office of Inspector General conducted an investigation into Spires' situation around the time his leave began on March 15, but the findings from that report have not been made public.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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