Nomination of Crawford as FDA Commissioner To Proceed After HHS OIG Investigation Concludes
An HHS Office of Inspector General investigation has found no evidence to support allegations that acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford had an extramarital affair with an employee or acted inappropriately because of such a relationship, the Washington Post reports. As a result, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday said he will move the committee to endorse the Crawford's nomination as permanent head of the agency (Kaufman, Washington Post, 6/9).
In April, Enzi said that he had received a letter from an anonymous FDA employee that included allegations about a personal relationship between Crawford and a senior female FDA staff member and raised questions about promotions that the woman received. Enzi did not provide additional details about the allegations but said that the letter was poorly spelled and poorly written and that he thinks the allegations are false. Enzi had referred the investigation of the claims to the FDA Office of Internal Affairs, but HHS OIG later assumed the responsibility (California Healthline, 5/10).
Enzi on Wednesday said the investigation showed there was "no basis for the charges of impropriety" made in the letter, adding that the findings allow Crawford's nomination to move forward (CongressDaily, 6/9).
In a letter to Enzi, Deputy Inspector General Michael Little wrote that the investigation found a "collegial, close personal or 'father-daughter' relationship" between Crawford and the woman, who remained unnamed (AP/Wall Street Journal, 6/9). Little said OIG reviewed more than 5,700 e-mails between Crawford and the woman during the investigation (Freking, AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/9).
However, the investigation also found certain "inconsistencies" related to the circumstances surrounding the woman's promotion. According to the report, the woman said Crawford had assisted her in preparing for the Senior Executive Services application, while Crawford said he gave her only "moral encouragement."
In addition, the report states that Crawford said he formally nominated the woman for the SES position on the recommendation of another administrator at the agency. However, "this administrator stated that he made no such recommendation and that he had previously expressed concerns about (the woman's) qualifications to join the SES," according to the report.
The SES consists of about 6,000 "highly compensated" career employees of the federal government who are "chosen for their executive and leadership qualities," according to the Post.
The allegations of a relationship also raised questions about the amount of traveling Crawford and the woman did together using federal funds, but those issues were not addressed in the investigation, the Post reports. The report found that charges of using a government credit card for a personal item while traveling and failing to pay the credit card bill on time were handled properly by Crawford, who "provided her with guidance on the proper use of the card" (Washington Post, 6/9).
Enzi said, "I am pleased that the IG has completed its work and found no merit to any of the charges leveled at Dr. Crawford," adding, "Crawford's experience as acting commissioner will benefit both the agency and public safety" (Schuler, CQ Today, 6/8).
However, Kirsten Moore, director of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, said, "The IG's report does not put to rest the larger question about Crawford's questionable track record as a manager. The FDA -- and indeed the public -- deserves a commissioner with the integrity to put the public interest ahead of his personal agenda. The IG's report fails to reassure us that Crawford meets that standard."
Meanwhile, several senators have said they will put holds on Crawford's nomination because of "unresolved FDA actions on issues involving reproductive health," the Post reports. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they will delay the nomination until a decision is reached on an application to make the emergency contraception Plan B available without a prescription.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he will delay the nomination over FDA's failure to relabel condom packages as was required by a 2000 law (Washington Post, 6/9).