Probe finds ex-Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White made staff run personal errands

"Ms. White misused her subordinate’s time for personal services and improperly accepted gifts from her subordinates,” the report said.
Image: Dana White
Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon on April 14, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

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By Dartunorro Clark

Former Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White abused her position by forcing her staff to run personal errands, the Department of Defense’s Inspector General concluded in a report released Thursday.

White, who abruptly resigned from the Defense Department's Office of Public Affairs in December at the beginning of the probe, often made the staff arrange her personal travel, grab lunch and snacks for her, schedule makeup appointments at her personal residence, drive her to and from work on a snow day and take care of her dry cleaning, the 62-page report said. She even had staff make phone calls to a foster care facility about adopting a child. The tasks often occurred both during and after official duty hours, the report said.

The inspector general also reviewed allegations that White was disrespectful to her subordinates, but ultimately did not find enough evidence to substantiate an ethics violation. Former staffers told NBC News in August that White retaliated against employees who disagreed with her. The inspector general's office said that it addressed claims of reprisal in a separate report. The office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when the separate report would be issued.

Thursday's report followed interviews with White and almost a dozen witnesses, as well as a review of emails from both White and members of her staff. The inspector general also reviewed Defense Department ethics presentations, personnel records, official and unofficial correspondence and agency ethical standards.

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“In sum, based on the evidence, we substantiated the allegations that Ms. White misused her subordinate’s time for personal services and improperly accepted gifts from her subordinates,” the report said.

White is the latest Trump administration official to be hit with allegations of abuse of power. Former Cabinet secretaries Tom Price, who headed the Department Health and Human Services, and David Shulkin, who ran Veterans Affairs, both resigned after public outcry over misuse of taxpayer dollars. Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also resigned after misusing funds and using aides to complete personal tasks, which is prohibited under federal ethics rules.

White also accepted gifts from staffers, including pantyhose from one of her subordinates, the report said. She admitted to investigators that she allowed her staffers to perform personal errands for her and accepted “items of value” from them, but maintained that she did not request the help from staffers. White told the inspector general that she reimbursed staffers for mileage and the pantyhose.

White responded to Thursday's report in a statement, saying that the inspector general "unfairly maligned routine acts of kindness done in every office in the Pentagon."

White’s attorney, whose response was included in the report, also disagreed with its findings.

“First, any suggestion that Ms. White misused staff time or accepted gifts from her staff (in the form of time) has no basis in fact or law,” her attorney wrote, according to the report. “The tasks in question were job-related. The government did not suffer any loss, and Ms. White did not realize any gain from them. The mere fact that DOD did not pay for some things, and that Ms. White paid for them out-of-pocket, does not convert them to private tasks because they were all demonstrably to advance OPA's mission.”

The inspector general disagreed with White’s attorney.

“We found that Ms. White engaged in an overall course of conduct that encouraged, required, or allowed her subordinates to perform numerous services for her that were not related to her subordinates’ official duties,” the report said. “After considering the attorney’s arguments, for the reasons discussed in this report, we stand by our overall conclusions that Ms. White misused her subordinates’ time and accepted gifts from her subordinates — employees who received less pay than herself."