Boehner Calls Upon Pelosi to Remove CAO Beard

Posted July 30, 2008 at 6:01pm

House Republicans’ long-standing distrust of Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard came to a head Tuesday with Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling for his immediate removal.

In a lengthy letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Boehner asked the California Democrat to immediately fire Beard, citing his “complete disregard for the interests of American taxpayers” and “recklessly partisan manner.”

But Pelosi had fired back by Wednesday afternoon, writing back to Boehner that “Beard has embodied the kind of innovation [at] the CAO’s office that was needed.”

“I reject your mischaracterizations of Mr. Beard’s leadership and particularly object to your unwarranted accusations of partisanship or political involvement,” Pelosi wrote. “These attacks are unjustified by the facts and unfairly impugn Mr. Beard’s record of accomplishment.”

Beard’s tenure has been controversial since the start. Pelosi hand-picked Beard for the post when she became Speaker, deviating from the typical process of vetting applicants through a bipartisan task force.

Ever since, Republicans have painted Beard as a partisan who abuses his position for Democratic ends. Democrats, meanwhile, point to his success in implementing greening initiatives in the House.

In a statement, House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.), who oversees the CAO’s office, said Beard acts with “efficiency, fairness and an unwavering commitment to the best interests of this institution.”

“Under his guidance, we have implemented a world class greening program, greatly enhanced the quality of food service in the House and improved our overall operational infrastructure,” Brady said. “He has acted honorably and in a non-partisan manner that compares favorably with his predecessors.”

During his 18 months as CAO, Beard has taken on several projects, including a revamping of the House cafeterias and a slew of energy-efficiency projects.

But he’s also sometimes deviated from House procedure, most recently by neglecting to get Congressional approval to cover the costs of some greening efforts in the House cafeterias.

In his letter, Boehner characterized Beard as a CAO who repeatedly exceeds his authority. He writes that Beard launched an “unprecedented personal image promotion campaign,” pointing to an expanded communications staff and numerous speeches around the country. He also accused Beard of improperly firing House employees.

“Clearly, we disagree with the concerns raised in Mr. Boehner’s letter and we await the Speaker’s response to the letter, given it was addressed to her,” CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said.

One Democratic leadership aide called the letter “a politically motivated stunt,” adding that if Boehner had real concerns, he wouldn’t have waited until the end of the session to raise them.

Beard will have to be reapproved by the House at the beginning of the 111th Congress, and several Republican aides have said their Members likely will put up a fight should Beard be renominated.

But apparently Boehner does not wish to wait. His letter asks for Beard’s immediate removal and the convening of a bipartisan task force to hire a replacement. Beard’s predecessor, Jay Eagen, was selected that way, with help from an outside search firm.

Boehner has the support of House Administration ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), who said in a statement that “it is imperative that the Chief Administrative Officer is an individual that both parties can stand behind with great confidence.”

“As a result of the closed appointment process, subsequent partisan behavior and questionable management actions taken by the Chief Administrative Officer, a considerable amount of bad feeling has been generated and a substantial number of my colleagues have lost confidence in the CAO,” Ehlers said.

Most notable among the number of controversial projects Beard has led is Pelosi’s Green the Capitol Initiative. Republicans repeatedly have criticized the project, including the 2007 purchase of $90,000 worth of carbon offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange and the $700,000 allocated to design a new, energy-efficient lighting system for the Capitol Dome.

“Mr. Beard claims that this effort will save money on lighting costs, but in reality it will take the House more than 50 years to generate enough energy savings to finally recoup the cost of Mr. Beard’s misguided design effort,” Boehner wrote.

But in her letter, Pelosi defends the initiative, writing: “The Green the Capitol initiative, which I charged Mr. Beard to implement, is recognized throughout the country as a far-reaching initiative to make the House complex carbon neutral by the end of this Congress.”

Boehner also wrote that Beard has used his position to advocate for Democratic policy initiatives, including extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act. (Beard served as a Democratic staffer on the then-House Interior Committee in the 1990s, a fact Republicans have pointed to in the past when alleging that the CAO was engaging in partisan behavior.)

“From the mismanagement of his office, to his penchant for partisan attacks and waste of taxpayer-funded resources, the case for dismissing Mr. Beard is clear,” Boehner wrote. “I encourage you to do this immediately.”