Ex-GC of USAID Caught Up in Investigation of Bid Rigging
The former general counsel of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is leaving the agency amid an ongoing probe into alleged contract rigging.
Lisa Gomer, who became USAIDs general counsel in March 2010, tendered her resignation on January 15, to become effective February 9, according to an agency spokesperson.
The revelation comes after USAIDs Office of Inspector General released a set of internal memos to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reformwhich the Associated Press reported on Thursday. The memos, which CorpCounsel.com also obtained, refer to an OIG investigation alleging that Gomer colluded with USAIDs outgoing chief financial officer David Ostermeyer on a personal service contract for a procurement reform initiative in the Office of General Counsel.
This position was advertised at the GS-15, and Gomer planned to select Ostermeyer for the position, the memorandum states. GS-15 refers to a government pay-grade.
Further, the memos describe conversations last June between the Office of Inspector General and USAIDs second-in-command, deputy administrator Donald Steinberg. According to the documents, Steinberg told members of the OIG that, it is a mistake to have a criminal investigation underway and that, When people are slapping badges down, reading rights, and monitoring who is calling who as it relates to career people, it is a mistake.
The memos were turned over to the House committee in response to the committees recent request for information concerning reported allegations of attempted interference by a high-level USAID official with an ongoing USAID Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation, according to the cover letter of the packet.
A spokesperson for USAID said the agency cooperated with the OIGs investigation, and takes very seriously the inspector generals independence.
We are confident that the investigation has not been compromised, said Kymal Bazbaz, the agencys press director, in an emailed statement. The Agency supports the important role that the USAID Inspector General plays to combat waste, fraud, and abuse by conducting investigations and audits of Agency operations.
Gomers attorney, David Schertler of Schertler & Onorato in Washington, D.C., said his client did not violate any law. He added that she cooperated completely with the Office of Inspector General investigation, according to an emailed statement.
The AP has reported that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation into the alleged bid rigging. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for a comment on whether or not the agency is pursuing the matter.
Schertler maintains that Gomer is not the subject of criminal investigation. He said, We have been informed that the Department of Justice reviewed the matter and declined to initiate a criminal investigation. We know of no other action being taken with regard to Ms. Gomer.
The USAID Inspector Generals office told CorpCounsel.com that it does not comment on ongoing investigations.
USAID cancelled the solicitation in question, and the position was never filled. As the OIG continued to probe the matter, Gomer was reassigned to other duties on August 20. The agencys deputy general counsel, Susan Pascocello, then took over as acting general counsel. She continues to serve in that position.
The former GC, meanwhile, was tasked with working on a report about USAIDs presence in Russia. Last summer, Russia booted the agency from the country.
Gomer has worked in international development since the 1980s, holding multiple positions in the United Nations. The Harvard Law School grad also co-founded a nonprofit to help improve health conditions in remote areas of Nepal, and briefly worked as an associate at Cleary Gottlieb between 1992 and 1993, according to her profile on LinkedIn.
Her decision to leave public service is a tremendous loss for USAID, her attorney said.
He declined to make Gomer available for comment.