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HHS inspector general Rehnquist will resign

©Associated Press
March 5, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Janet Rehnquist, the daughter of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, will resign as inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department after a controversial tenure.

Rehnquist wrote President Bush that she will leave June 1 to spend more time with her teenage daughters and pursue other professional opportunities.

Congress' General Accounting Office is investigating Rehnquist's management as internal watchdog of the huge health and welfare agency. Her management also is under review by the Integrity Committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, a peer group of inspectors general. Rehnquist's job is to investigate fraud, waste and abuse at HHS, including Medicare fraud.

Indications from the White House were that she was not pressured to resign.

She delayed an audit of Florida's pension fund at the request of Gov. Jeb Bush's chief of staff. The delay ensured that the audit would not be completed until after the November election.

Several top career staff members at the HHS inspector general's office either quit or said they were forced out. Rehnquist also had possession of a government handgun in her office, raising questions about whether she was authorized to have the weapon.

Rehnquist was appointed by President Bush in August 2001. The position is considered nonpartisan.

In her letter to Bush, Rehnquist did not mention the controversies.

On the Florida controversy, the AP has obtained internal HHS documents that show a draft audit could have been completed before Gov. Bush's re-election if the work had started on time. It was first scheduled to begin last April, but Bush's aide called Rehnquist on April 15 to request the delay. Several postponements delayed the start for five months, and the audit still is not complete.

Rehnquist has said her decision to grant the delays "was based on the merits and not motivated by political reasons."

Jeb Bush's spokeswoman Jill Bratina on Tuesday repeated previous statements from the governor's office that the delay was requested because a new pension director was assuming office, and Bush wanted him in place before the audit began.

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