IG to Investigate Page Program

Posted December 12, 2007 at 6:43pm

The House Inspector General and an independent panel will conduct separate investigations of the page program after two Republican Members said they were not kept up to date on page expulsions and resigned from the House Page Board last week.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) met Wednesday evening and came to the mutual agreement.

“We expect the Inspector General to gather the facts and recommend the appropriate and necessary corrective actions to be taken by the House,” Pelosi and Boehner said in a statement. “We will also work together to select a highly regarded, independent entity to conduct a thorough review of the Page Program’s organization and operation, and make recommendations concerning its long-term future.”

Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) resigned from the Page Board last week, claiming that Clerk of the House Lorraine Miller failed to keep the oversight board aware of the expulsion of several pages.

Brown-Waite and Capito’s complaints stem from the expulsion of at least four pages this fall. Two were sent home for shoplifting, while the other two recently were expelled for having oral sex on a dorm elevator, according to several sources. Both Republicans say they weren’t told of the first two, but they also admit that Miller told them immediately about the recent sexual misconduct.

The agreement between Pelosi and Boehner comes less than a day after both Brown-Waite and Capito sat down with Boehner to hash out their concerns.

Boehner will wait until the House IG finishes an investigation before appointing two more Republican Members to the board, spokesman Brian Kennedy said. But it’s unclear how long the investigation will take and what the program will do for oversight in the meantime.

“First things first,” Kennedy said. “The leader would like to see the IG’s findings before he moves forward on other issues.”

Other members of the Page Board have kept mostly silent.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), the chairman of the board, sent out a statement last week that alluded to communication problems earlier in the fall, but he hasn’t commented on the controversy since. Miller has put out two statements defending her management of the program but hasn’t addressed some of the specific allegations waged against her management of the program.

One allegation is that the page school hosted a lecture from an abortion clinic employee. Brown-Waite has said that parents have called her on the issue, and in an interview last week, she said she had voiced her concerns on the incident earlier but was unable to make the one board meeting that addressed those concerns.

“I don’t remember any questions about abortion being on the SAT,” she said.

But one senior Democratic aide said Wednesday that Brown-Waite is blowing things out of proportion, while another said the incident actually took place before Miller stepped into office.

Others have said Brown-Waite missed several meetings and a tour of the page dorm; the Florida Republican said she missed at least one meeting and the tour because it conflicted with her Congressional responsibilities.

While a speaker did come talk to the pages, the speaker came as part of a student project about abortion and did not present any pro-abortion stance, the senior Democratic aide said.

“Quite the contrary,” the aide said, adding that if anything, the student project was designed to scare others away from abortion.

The situation shadows the party bickering that surrounded the discovery of then-Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) lewd e-mails to pages. Brown-Waite and Capito claim that serious issues aren’t brought to Members’ attention quickly enough, much like Democrats claimed during the Foley scandal in 2006.

After that incident, the House restructured the Page Board, expanding it from five members to eight, including a seat for an extra member of the minority party — all in an attempt to erase issues of poor communication and allegations of partisanship. Now, Brown-Waite says nothing has been fixed.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.