After reading anindependent panel?s critical report about complaints against the man in chargeof investigating complaints against NASA, a U.S. senator and a member of theHouse of Representatives Monday asked U.S. President George W. Bush to fireNASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the SenateCommerce space and aeronautics subcommittee, and Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC),chairman of the House Science investigation and oversight subcommittee, calledon Bush to remove Cobb from office based on the results of an investigationthat has dragged on for more than a year.
"Given the compelling weight of the evidence we believe that the NASA inspectorgeneral can no longer be effective in his office and should be immediatelyreplaced," the two lawmakers said in their letter.
In a press release issuedby Nelson?s office, the senator and representative said the report which hasstill not been made public shows that Cobb "abused his authority, engaged inapparent conflicts of interest and failed to act even when confronted with theloss of NASA material posing a possible national security problem."
A NASA spokesman said April2 that the space agency was aware of the lawmakers? letter and that NASA hadnot yet received the final report on the investigation into Cobb?s conduct fromthe President?s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, the body that is chargedwith overseeing inspectors general and the one that compiled the report onCobb?s activities.
A congressional aide wassympathetic to NASA?s position. It is difficult for the agency to removesomeone who has investigated it, this aide pointed out, since inspectorsgeneral have unique legal protections so they cannot be pressured as governmentemployees can be. However, few inspectors general have remained in office oncethey have been accused of improprieties, two aides said.
Two calls to Madeline Chulomovich, spokeswoman for the NASA inspector general?soffice, were not returned.