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House Panel Faults 2 Federal Workers for Pro-Christian Activities

Times Staff Writer

A House subcommittee report Thursday accused two federal employees of misusing tax dollars, obstructing congressional investigators and violating government behavior standards in connection with their zealous on-the-job efforts to promote Christian religious views.

Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) urged the firing of Thomas G. Tancredo, an Education Department employee who spent federal money to distribute a speech calling America a “Christian nation,” and Christopher C. Sundseth, a Treasury Department employee who wrote a scathing letter to a California man who protested Tancredo’s action.

Schroeder, who heads the civil service subcommittee of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, charged Tancredo with “extensive mismanagement” of the Education Department’s Denver office, where he is regional representative. She also accused Sundseth of lying to House staff members looking into the speech matter.

A spokesman for Education Secretary William J. Bennett declined comment on the report, saying that the department’s inspector general is examining Tancredo’s case and will issue findings later this month.

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Treasury Investigation

A spokesman for Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III said the department is investigating the incident. Sundseth’s job was terminated as of today because of staff cutbacks “wholly unrelated” to Schroeder’s complaints, the spokesman said.

Schroeder’s subcommittee report complained of an array of legal and ethical violations by both Tancredo and Sundseth, most of them stemming from a bizarre chain of events relating to Tancredo’s government-financed mailing in 1984 of a speech to 328 Christian schools.

The speech cited examples of legal actions against churches and asked: “How can these things be happening in America, this land of freedom, this Christian nation?” It later called for “a truly Christian educational system.”

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After the mailing was made public, Gerald B. Leib of Mountain View, Calif., complained to the Education Department and received a letter from the Treasury Department’s Sundseth calling him “a truly amazing, but pathetic creature.”

‘Repeated Lies’

The House investigation concluded that Sundseth used his government position and working time to secure copies of the Tancredo mailing from Tancredo’s secretary and accused Sundseth of “repeated lies” to Treasury Department investigators looking into the Leib letter.

The report stated that Sundseth and Tancredo’s secretary, Shirley Fowler, offered conflicting explanations of how Sundseth got Leib’s name and address.

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It also charged that Tancredo’s staff assistant refused to arrange meetings with House investigators and complained that Tancredo’s own explanations of the events surrounding the speech and the Leib letter “lack credibility.”

‘Glowing’ Recommendation

Tancredo played down his relationship with Sundseth, the report stated, even though he wrote two “glowing” letters of recommendation on Sundseth’s behalf.

The report also alleged that the Education Department brought its regional representatives to Washington for a January business meeting that apparently was “a ruse to have the government pay travel and lodging expenses for people who wanted to attend the (presidential) inauguration.”

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It also stated that Tancredo’s secretary--an associate who worked with Tancredo on a Colorado education referendum--appeared to have been hired in violation of federal civil service rules that require open competition for such posts.


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