WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and his wife violated ethics rules by asking staff to conduct personal errands including walking their dog and making restaurant reservations, a long-awaited internal review said Friday (April 16).
Then president Donald Trump last year fired the State Department's inspector general on behalf of Pompeo after the internal watchdog began reviewing the complaint. But the inspector general's office went ahead with the review, which found that Pompeo and his wife, Susan, made more than 100 requests that appeared to be of a personal nature.
The inspector general "found that such requests were inconsistent with Department ethics rules and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch," it said. On several occasions, the Pompeos asked an employee with the title of senior advisor to take care of their dog including returning the pet from a boarder and walking the dog, the report said. Representative Gregory Meeks, the Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the report showed Pompeo "abused his position as Secretary of State to benefit himself, his family and his future political ambitions." He called for a further look into whether Pompeo violated laws including the Hatch Act, which bans government employees from using their jobs to engage in political activity.
Meeks said the State Department should explore whether "to make referrals to the Justice Department, as appropriate, to recoup the taxpayer money wasted by former Secretary Pompeo and his family." The inspector general did not recommend action against Pompeo, who left office following Trump's election defeat and is widely seen as seeking to run for president in 2024.
The report recommended clarification on rules at the State Department, saying staff had been confused on whether they could buy movie or other tickets for Pompeo. Some believed such errands may have fallen under official duties because of the need to alert Pompeo's security guards, it said.
Among other episodes, the report said the Pompeos tasked employees more than 30 times with making personal restaurant reservations, pointing to one Sunday brunch at a branch of the Cheesecake Factory chain. It also said that Susan Pompeo asked staff to arrange gifts when the two were invited to the homes of a television news anchor and a commentator as well as to buy a souvenir T-shirt for the daughter of a personal friend who is a priest in Ukraine.
Separately, the report said that the Pompeos' son received a discounted hotel room available only for government employees when he accompanied his parents to a football game that was listed as an official trip. Mike Pompeo told the inspector general that he likes to "pay less" but could not recall the details and said it would be "completely inappropriate" to use his official position to obtain discounts, the report said.
Pompeo, a former lawyer and businessman who unlike much of Trump's cabinet was not personally wealthy, recently signed on as a commentator on Fox News and took a position at the Hudson Institute. Trump, while in office, defended Pompeo, saying he had better uses of his time than washing dishes.