WASHINGTON – The Trump appointee, who oversees Voice of America and other US-funded broadcasters, resigned on Wednesday at the request of the Biden administration after telling the networks editorial independence after a tumultuous tenure marked by allegations had undermined.
Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Global Media Agency, said his resignation will take effect at 2 p.m. EST just two hours after Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States, according to an email from Pack to staff.
Pack came under fire in Congress from both sides of the aisle, from freedom of the press groups, and current and former journalists from Voice of America and other outlets, for a series of decisions that critics said should turn broadcasters into mouthpieces for the Trump administration .
“I do not serve a specific president, but the office of the president himself. The new government has requested my resignation, and that is why I announced him today from 2:00 pm,” Pack wrote to the staff.
“It has been a tremendous honor to stand by your side. I firmly believe that, thanks to your support, patriotism and understanding, a large amount of much-needed reform has been achieved over the past eight months,” he wrote.
Current and former journalists from VOA and other government-funded media outlets have publicly protested his actions, expressing concern that his decisions could tarnish the reputation of an institution built over decades.
Last week a group of Voice of America journalists signed a letter call for the resignation of the director of VOA and his deputy, recently appointed by Pack. They accused the Pack appointments of using the network “to hold a propaganda event” for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and for the “sudden and unexplained” reassignments of the White House editor-in-chief and correspondent.
Since he took over the agency last year, Pack has fired officers and board members, refused to renew visas for dozens of foreign journalists, and has been harshly criticized by Congress and a federal judge.
The news of Pack’s resignation came just a day after the staff filed a whistleblower complaint He accused him of hiring a law firm with $ 2 million in tax dollars to investigate employees he sought to remove.
Pack joined the McGuireWoods law firm on the same day in August and ordered the suspension of six long-time agency executives, all of whom were civil servants, according to the complaint filed Tuesday. He turned to the law firm to help advocate their removal.
“It is now clear that Mr. Pack hired McGuireWoods to justify the purge,” said the complaint filed by a nonprofit, the Government Accountability Project, on behalf of employees who remained anonymous.
The law firm checked a large number of emails for the officers and possibly other employees, the complaint said. The record “probably consisted of hundreds of thousands of emails,” the complaint said.
The law firm was asked to do work that duplicated what staff and law firms would normally do within the federal government, the complaint argued.
“In sum, Mr. Pack hired McGuireWoods to do work that could and should have been done by existing federal agencies and employees,” it said.
“This waste of government resources is shocking. We think additional investigations will uncover further violations of laws, rules and regulations, abuse of authority and gross mismanagement,” it said.
The U.S. Global Media Agency and the law firm did not respond to requests for comment.
The whistleblower complaint was filed with the Office of Special Counsel, the State Department’s Inspectorate General, and the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees.
The fees paid to the law firm exceeded $ 600,000 each month in October, November and December, according to the complaint.
David Silk, the attorney who represented the whistleblowers in the complaint, said the fees paid to the law firm violated laws that require government agencies to spend funds approved by Congress.
In the agreement with the law firm, Pack agreed to a contract with John D. Adams, a McGuireWoods partner, a former Supreme Court clerk Clarence Thomas, and a Republican candidate for Attorney General in Virginia in 2017. Pack had previously contracted a documentary about Justice Thomas.
Under the contract with McGuireWoods, the law firm initially agreed to conduct an internal investigation of current and former employees into alleged wrongdoing, and the work was later expanded to include “compliance reviews”, according to the complaint.
The complaint also states that the company has been hired to review the records of a nonprofit that is overseen by Pack’s agency, the Open Technology Fund, and anti-censorship software and apps for journalists and civil society groups around the world provides. However, the complaint states that the work duplicated that of the State Department’s General Inspectorate, which had already conducted an audit of the Open Technology Fund and is responsible for following up its audits.