Bush aide resigns, alleged grant money misuse

March 28, 2008 1:52:57 PM PDT
An aide to President Bush has resigned because of his alleged misuse of grant money from the U.S. Agency for International Development when he worked for a Cuban democracy organization. Felipe Sixto was promoted on March 1 as a special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and stepped forward on March 20 to reveal his alleged wrongdoing and to resign, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said on Friday. He said Sixto took that step after learning that his former employer, the Center for a Free Cuba, was prepared to initiate legal action against him.

The alleged wrongdoing occurred when Sixto was chief of staff at the center, where he worked for more than three years before moving to the White House.

The matter has been turned over to the Justice Department for investigation, Stanzel said. He said Bush was briefed on the case and felt that the appropriate action was being taken.

The Center for a Free Cuba describes itself as an independent, nonpartisan institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a transition to democracy and the rule of law in Cuba. Frank Calzon, the center's executive director, said it receives "a couple million dollars" a year from USAID for rent, travel and equipment such as shortwave radios and laptops. He said the center welcomed the investigation and pledged complete cooperation.

Sixto joined the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in July 2007 and was assigned to deal with state legislators, Native American groups and Hispanic officials on issues such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, health, labor, transportation, the environment and energy, Stanzel said.

"Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds," Stanzel said. He said he did not know how much money was involved or the particulars of the allegations.

Sixto is the second White House aide to resign under a cloud in less than a month. Timothy Goeglein, who served as Bush's middleman with conservatives and Christian groups, resigned on Feb. 29 after admitting to plagiarism. Twenty columns he wrote for an Indiana newspaper were determined to have material copied from other sources without attribution.

Goeglein was a special assistant to Bush and deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison.

Calzon said the Center for a Free Cuba "received an allegation" in mid-January about the possible misuse of funds and within days formed a fact-finding team. He said USAID was alerted within a few days. "After several weeks of investigating, we discovered there was some substance to it," Calzon said. "A letter went from our lawyer to the inspector general of USAID."

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