Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard potentially broke House rules and damaged the reputation of House officers when he assigned a staffer to work for the Natural Resources Committee earlier this year, according to Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.).
Ehlers, the House Administration Committee’s ranking member, sent Beard a letter Wednesday chiding him for appointing David Tiscione, who was hired as a special assistant to the CAO, to do work for the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans.
The CAO is a nonpartisan officer of the House, and as such, writes Ehlers, should not be sending his employees to do politically driven work on either the Democratic or Republican side of any committee.
Tiscione did typical committee tasks during his time with Resources, including drafting memos and floor statements, conducting research and preparing committee reports, according to the letter.
“The detailing of Mr. Tiscione by the CAO to the majority staff of a House committee was in contravention to the traditional interpretation of rules and regulations of the House,” Ehlers writes. “It was not consistent with the expectations of transparency, accountability and professionalization that this Committee has for the officers of the House.”
Copies of the letter were sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.).
“Clearly, this is very troubling,” Ehlers told Roll Call. “We simply can’t have the officers of this institution violating rules of the House, whether knowingly or unknowingly.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Beard’s office said it appreciated the correspondence from House Administration on personnel issues.
“We are firmly committed to offering the maximum amount of administrative support to all Members of the House,” the statement reads. “We will continue to work closely with the Committee on House Administration to most appropriately fulfill our mission of service to the entirety of the House community.”
Tiscione is the son of Frank Tiscione, the superintendent of House office buildings. He was hired as a 90-day temporary employee for a pro-rated gross salary of $30,313, according to an April 27 appointment memorandum obtained by Roll Call. Tiscione was to be “assigned special projects during his employment with the CAO,” the document reads.
For his part, Brady defended Beard in a letter sent to Ehlers on Wednesday afternoon. The chairman writes that he spoke to Beard about the Tiscione appointment and is confident that no laws or rules were broken.
“Mr. Tiscione was brought on board with the CAO’s office as much for his own summer education as the needs of the CAO,” Brady writes. “The fact that Mr. Beard offered him an opportunity to see the internal workings of a House committee as well as the CAO’s own operations is consistent with this practice, and with the practice of many House offices.”
Brady adds that he believes the CAO will not take a similar action in the future. But Ehlers spokeswoman Salley Collins said questions still remain.
“We are curious to know specifically what Mr. Tiscione contributed to the CAO’s mission of overseeing House operations while working at the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans,” she said.
House Administration maintains oversight of the chamber’s officers, including the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms. The duties of the House officers require that they maintain political impartiality, Ehlers writes.
Tiscione’s appointment “circumvented established internal oversight controls” and threatens the CAO’s “reputation of political impartiality,” Ehlers continues.
“Further, it is inconsistent with appropriations law that stipulates that the funds appropriated to the CAO are provided for purposes necessary to carry out the CAO’s mission,” Ehlers writes.
Beard also earned the ire of other House Republicans. According to one GOP leadership aide, several Members have complained that Beard has not been doing his job properly, which is typically described as keeping the trains running on time.
For example, there have been repeated problems with the chamber’s e-mail servers, the aide said.
“This seems to be the latest in a string of rather negligent and unseemly management decisions, and it gives additional credence to the widely held belief that he was installed in the job solely because of his political bona fides,” the aide said.
Beard’s role in the House has been controversial since he was appointed by Pelosi early this year.
Several Republicans, including Ehlers, took to the House floor voicing concerns that Pelosi did not invoke the same search process that was used to find Jay Eagen, the previous CAO. Still, the House voted to make the appointment official on Feb. 15.
Republicans made another fuss in June, when Beard appeared on the House floor during a debate on a California water project. Beard, a one-time Democratic staff director of the then-House Interior Committee in the early ’90s, said in June he was on the floor to explain the Green the Capitol Initiative to a Member.
Among those who sounded the horns after that floor appearance was Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who noted that Beard spent years working on resource issues before becoming CAO.
Nunes said Wednesday he wasn’t surprised by the concerns listed in the Ehlers letter.
“This is the same song, different verse,” Nunes said. “The same thing is going on, and that is, this guy is supposed to be the officer of the House, make sure the lights are on. And he’s playing politics.”
It is unclear whether the Natural Resources Committee potentially broke any House rules.
Committee offices are allowed to share employees, according to the House committee handbook. But “employees may not be shared with a committee office and the office of an Officer of a House if the employee, in the course of duties for an officer, has access to the financial information, payroll information, equipment account information or information systems either of Member, committee or Leadership offices.”
The pay from each employing authority must reflect the duties actually performed for each, the handbook reads. Shared employees do not count against the committee’s staff ceiling, the handbook also stipulates.
A spokeswoman for Natural Resources could not be reached for comment by press time.