Thursday, May 1, 2008

Federal Contracting Chief Is Forced Out

Federal Contracting Chief Is Forced Out

By David Stout

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Washington - Lurita A. Doan has been forced out as head of the General Services Administration, the federal agency that oversees billions of dollars in contracts and manages thousands of government-owned buildings.

In a stormy two-year tenure as the agency's administrator, Ms. Doan has been accused of improperly mixing government business with politics and of trying to steer government contracts to her friends. Democrats in Congress said she violated the Hatch Act, which makes it illegal for government employees to take action that could influence an election.

Ms. Doan's resignation as administrator was requested by the White House on Tuesday, and it takes effect immediately, the agency said on Wednesday. It released a statement in which Ms. Doan said, "It has been a great privilege to serve our nation and a great president."

Much of the criticism of Ms. Doan came after it became known that on Jan. 26, 2007, a deputy to Karl Rove, then President Bush's chief political adviser, gave a briefing to employees of her agency that identified incumbent Democrats in Congress whom the Republican Party hoped to unseat in 2008, as well as Republican incumbents who seemed vulnerable to defeat.

Several people at that meeting recalled later that Ms. Doan had asked how her agency could be used "to help our candidates." Ms. Doan said she did not remember making that remark.

The White House said there was nothing wrong with having White House political appointees brief political appointees at government agencies, and that the briefing in question was not intended to tell employees of the agency what to do to hurt Democrats and help Republicans.

The January 2007 briefing at the General Services Administration, which has some 12,000 employees in all, was one of a series of political talks given by Mr. Rove's staff at various federal agencies. Ms. Doan's Democratic critics included about two dozen senators, some of whom called for her resignation.

Ms. Doan became administrator of the agency on May 31, 2006. Before taking the job, she owned and led New Technology Management, a surveillance-technology company she founded in 1990. It has become a major contractor for the Department of Homeland Security.

A White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said on Wednesday that Ms. Doan had "worked to strengthen G.S.A.'s ability to respond effectively during times of emergency and make government buildings more energy-efficient," and that President Bush was grateful for her service.

The agency said that its deputy administrator, David L. Bibb, a career employee, would take over, at least for the time being.

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