U.S. trucking regulators caught in ethics violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 22) — Officials from the U.S Dept. of Transportation’s Office of Motor Carriers violated ethics rules when they asked employees and trucking groups to lobby against a plan to appoint another agency to supervise the office, according to a report released yesterday.

DOT Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead said regulators at the Office of Motor Carriers drafted letters for trucking associations and personally lobbied several large companies to oppose the change, which would have shifted oversight of the OMC from the Federal Highway Administration to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The lobbying occurred from July to October last year, when Congress decided that the OMC should stay with FHWA.

Mead said the action violated anti-lobbying rules at DOT, and recommended that the officials involved be disciplined. The Associated Press reported those regulators include George Reagle, who was relieved as OMC head on Tuesday; Jill Hochman, director of the Office of Motor Carrier planning and customer liaison; Clinton Magby, director of motor carrier field operations; and Cynthia Elliot, chief of the Policy Planning and Customer Liaison division.

In a statement released late yesterday, Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle acknowledged that the report “indicates a serious breach of departmental policy and congressional prohibition against lobbying contained in the FY 1998 DOT Appropriations Act. I am deeply disturbed by the report’s findings, and we will act firmly and swiftly in response to them.”

He said an internal review is forthcoming. “As federal legal guidelines prohibit certain public statements about this review, I will have no further comment about it at this time,” he said.

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