Magazine article American Libraries

Senators, Federal Agencies Question Authority of WCHLIS Committee

Magazine article American Libraries

Senators, Federal Agencies Question Authority of WCHLIS Committee

Article excerpt

Senators, federal agencies question authority of WHCLIS committee

The authority of the White House Conference Advisory Committee (WHCAC) has been questioned by the Department of Education, the General Services Administration (GSA), and two U.S. Senators. The Senators specifically questioned the spending and personnel-appointment power exercised by WHCAC Chair Dan Carter.

The 30-member committee is charged with advising the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) on conducting the 1991 White House Conference on Library and Information Services (WHCLIS).

Last October Mary Alice Reszetar, NCLIS's designated federal official to the Advisory Committee, expressed concern to NCLIS Executive Director Susan Martin that the committee may be operating outside its charter. After consulting GSA and Department of Education officials, Martin told then-NCLIS Chair Jerald C. Newman in a Nov. 6 memo that "we have major problems on our hands.... We have been advised that this is the kind of situation that sometimes leads to public embarrassment for top-level agencies...."

According to the memo, NCLIS had delegated "its authority for conference direction, procurement, contracting, personnel, and oversight responsibilities" to the Advisory Committee. The memo said that WHCAC Chair Carter had instructed NCLIS staff member Vivian Terrell to send a memo to the Department of Education last July asking for sole signatory authority for WHCLIS financial and fiscal documents.

Although the department's budget office denied the request, Martin's memo continues, almost $250,000 in purchase orders have been signed since July by Carter, "a civilian employee without properly authorized signatory authority." Martin points out that since the committee's purpose is primarily advisory, its members cannot be given the fiscal authority reserved to NCLIS.

Both the GSA and the Education Department suggested that Carter was "acting outside his authority...and, they stated repeatedly, needs to be `reined in' by the Commission," said the memo. The agencies said that NCLIS was "operating illegally and may be subject to legal action, both in fiscal and personnel matters."

The memo also said that at an April 1989 meeting Carter urged the Advisory Committee members to lobby their Congressmen for funds for WHCLIS, in violation of the law prohibiting federal employees from lobbying Congress.

"Questionable actions"

In a Dec. 7 letter to Newman, Senators John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), both members of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, expressed concern about "reports of questionable actions" taken by Carter. The Senators asked Newman to explain the legal authority for Carter's claim that the committee was not subject to Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) management and fiscal controls. …

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