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Senior House Members Urge Removal of Amtrak’s New In-House Watchdog

5:14 PM EDT on July 29, 2009

The chairman and senior Republican on the House oversight committee took a step further today in their investigation of internal conflicts at Amtrak, calling for the removal of the staffer who was installed as the rail company's inspector general (IG) after the sudden resignation of the previous in-house watchdog.

610x_2.jpgReps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), center, and Darrell Issa (R-CA), left. (Photo: Reuters)

The House began its probe last month when former IG Fred Weiderhold resigned after releasing a report that alleged Amtrak managers had stymied his monitoring of their economic stimulus spending, in addition to high-profile projects such as New York's Moynihan Station.

Weiderhold was replaced by Lorraine Green, a 12-year Amtrak veteran who plans to return to her manager's job when a permanent watchdog is named.

But the IG was designed by Congress to be an impartial auditor of taxpayer spending. In that light, Green's move "undermines the statutory independence" of the position, oversight chairman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and his GOP counterpart, Darrell Issa (CA), wrote today in a letter to Amtrak's president.

"The
independence of Amtrak’s inspector general is critical to
effectively weed out waste and fraud, especially now with increased stimulus
spending at Amtrak," Towns said in a statement accompanying the letter. 

"By installing one of
their own as inspector general, it looks like Amtrak management is trying to
take the teeth out of the watchdog."

Towns and Issa gave Amtrak until Friday to respond to the request.

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