Officials of Amtrak have “systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) charged Thursday, making public a 94-page legal report prepared at the request of the Amtrak inspector general who resigned suddenly a week ago.
Fred Wiederhold, a veteran IG, retired without notice or explanation June 18 after a meeting with Amtrak officials where he presented the report by the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher.
“The allegations are serious, including third parties being told to first send documents under subpoena by the Inspector General to Amtrak for review, and the Inspector General being chastised for communicating directly with congressional appropriations and authorizing committees,” Grassley said in a statement.
Grassley’s accusation of illegal actions by Amtrak, including failure to comply properly with subpoenas, is the most serious to date in an investigation that has expanded quickly since the IG for the AmeriCorps program was given an ultimatum two weeks ago to resign or be fired.
In a letter to Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper, Grassley said the legal report “suggests a long-term and unrelenting interference with the activities and operation” of the IG’s office. Grassley said his staff believes that members of the Amtrak IG office “be fearful of retaliation if they were to discuss the matters set forth in this letter with anyone, including Congress.”
Grassley requested that Carper make four Amtrak employees “immediately available for interviews”: D. Hamilton Peterson, Deputy Counsel to the Inspector General; Edward Puccerella, Director of Congressional & External Affairs; Colin C. Carriere, Counsel to the Inspector General; and E. Bret Coulson, Deputy Inspector General.
The American Spectator reported earlier Thursday that, according to sources with knowledge of the case, Amtrak vice president and general counsel Eleanor “Eldie” Acheson — a close friend of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — had been involved in several of the disputes between the money-losing passenger rail service and the IG’s office.