After reading an independent panel?s critical report about complaints against the man in charge of investigating complaints against NASA, a U.S. senator and a member of the House of Representatives Monday asked U.S. President George W. Bush to fire NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Commerce space and aeronautics subcommittee, and Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), chairman of the House Science investigation and oversight subcommittee, called on Bush to remove Cobb from office based on the results of an investigation that has dragged on for more than a year.
"Given the compelling weight of the evidence we believe that the NASA inspector general can no longer be effective in his office and should be immediately replaced," the two lawmakers said in their letter.
In a press release issued by Nelson?s office, the senator and representative said the report which has still not been made public shows that Cobb "abused his authority, engaged in apparent conflicts of interest and failed to act even when confronted with the loss of NASA material posing a possible national security problem."
A NASA spokesman said April 2 that the space agency was aware of the lawmakers? letter and that NASA had not yet received the final report on the investigation into Cobb?s conduct from the President?s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, the body that is charged with overseeing inspectors general and the one that compiled the report on Cobb?s activities.
A congressional aide was sympathetic to NASA?s position. It is difficult for the agency to remove someone who has investigated it, this aide pointed out, since inspectors general have unique legal protections so they cannot be pressured as government employees can be. However, few inspectors general have remained in office once they have been accused of improprieties, two aides said.
Two calls to Madeline Chulomovich, spokeswoman for the NASA inspector general?s
office, were not returned.