Friday, April 6, 2007
Iglesias Seeks New Investigation
By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias is seeking the help of a federal investigative office to determine if he was fired illegally for missing work to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Iglesias, who was forced to resign Dec. 7 after five years as New Mexico's U.S. attorney, has previously contended he was fired for political reasons. He has also suggested the Justice Department later developed a case to show he was fired for poor job performance.
This week, he filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, an investigative arm of the federal government, asking it to investigate if he was illegally fired for fulfilling his Naval Reserve obligations.
Iglesias said he was approached by officials from the Office of Special Counsel about filing a complaint.
The OSC specializes in whistle-blower complaints but also investigates an array of "prohibited personnel practices." The agency also enforces the Hatch Act, a federal statute designed to prohibit federal employees from engaging in partisan politics.
"I was contacted by the Office of Special Counsel right before my testimony," Iglesias said in a telephone interview Thursday, referring to his testimony to Congress on March 5. "I decided to authorize them to investigate whether any federal laws were broken in my termination."
Loren Smith, an OSC spokesman, confirmed that Iglesias has filed a complaint and that the agency is investigating.
Smith said he was unsure exactly how the complaint was initiated but said Iglesias is a friend of a staffer at the agency and that the two had discussed the matter before the complaint was filed.
"In recent conversations this came up," Smith said, adding that he was unsure how long the investigation would take.
Iglesias said he had met with OSC head Scott Bloch.
An internal Justice Department memo released last month described Iglesias as an "absentee landlord" who traveled too much to effectively run the office. Iglesias contends he was out of the office 40-45 days per year on Reserve duty, as well as roughly three weeks of vacation and occasional job-related travel.
"Logically, the only thing they can be talking about is my military duty," Iglesias said.
Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who have National Guard or Reserve duties. Iglesias said he suspects that's why he was fired.
Iglesias initially said he believed he was fired because he did not issue indictments against prominent Democrats before the November 2006 elections.
Meanwhile, several New Mexico Republicans including Sen. Pete Domenici and Albuquerque lawyers Pat Rogers and Mickey Barnett had complained to Justice Department officials that Iglesias had been lax in prosecuting voter fraud.
Iglesias has said he worked hard to prosecute voter fraud in New Mexico but that the evidence of fraud was scant.
Iglesias said Thursday he has no interest in being reinstated as U.S. attorney for New Mexico but said he would accept back payments of his salary if the OSC determines there is merit to his claim.