|By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 11:58 pm: Edit Post|
The Confirmation Hearings for Gaddi Vasquez for Peace Corps Director and Jody Olsen for Deputy Director started at 4 pm in Room 419 of the Dirksen Building. The room was full with about 80 people attending. There were about ten friends and family of Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Olsen, about ten people from the United States Peace Corps Press Office, and the rest were Returned Volunteers and other interested parties. There were newspaperman from the Orange County Register and the LA Times.
Senator Dodd presided over the meeting. Senator Chaffee, represented the minority delegation to the Committee. Senator Sarbanes also attended much of the meeting.
Senator Dodd began with brief opening remarks on the importance of the Peace Corps and the importance of this nomination and talked about how the Peace Corps had been a seminal experience of his life.
It is customary for a senator from the nominee's home state to introduce the nominee, so Senator Hatch began by introducing Jody Olsen to the committee with words of high praise. Senator Hatch also said he supported Gaddi Vasquez for Director.
Senator Boxer introduced Mr. Vasquez to the committee and said she was very pleased that a Californian had been chosen for this honor. She said that his experience in law enforcement as a former police officer would serve him well in the post and talked about his work with Habitat for Humanity and Boys Town. She said that there had been a misplaced personal attack on Mr. Vasquez and cited the full page advertisement which the Committee for the Future of the Peace Corps had put in the Congressional Roll Call Magazine. She said that the advertisement was unfair, cruel, and that she didn't agree with it.
Representative Chris Cox made a statement of support for Mr. Vasquez. He said that the entirety of Orange County's delegation supports the nomination and that Mr. Vasquez is the right person for the position at the right time. He addressed the Orange County bankruptcy issue by saying that it was a case of criminal fraud by the County Treasurer, that the LA Times had endorsed the treasurer a few months before the bankruptcy, and that the SEC had also given Orange County a clean bill of health a few months before the bankruptcy so nobody saw it coming.
Representative Loretta Sanchez spoke on behalf of the nomination and talked about how difficult it was to be a woman and a Hispanic in Orange County, and how Gaddi Vasquez had been a role model for many. She said that he'd made some mistakes but that we needed to look at what he had done in his life since he left politics in 1995, his advisory role to the Salvation Army and how he worked with the Boy Scouts to bring in Hispanic members. She concluded by saying that Mr. Vasquez had all the potential to be the greatest Director the Peace Corps ever had - he just has to decide - and that now is his time.
OPENING STATEMENTS BY THE NOMINEES
Mr. Vasquez made his statement to the committee. He began by saying the President supported the Peace Corps. He said that what he wanted to do as Director was to re-acquaint people with the Peace Corps and enhance the visibility of the Peace Corps. He also wanted to expand the diversity of the Peace Corps so that it would reflect the face of the America and he wanted to enhance the safety and protection of volunteers and that as a former police officer he knew how to do this. He talked about how on September 11, he was evacuated from the White House and as he left saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon and the effect it had on him. He concluded by saying the volunteers can bring home experience from their overseas assignments and that the mission of the Peace Corps was more important than ever.
Jody Olsen began her statement by introducing her mother and father and talking about how they had first seen her enter the Peace Corps 35 years ago. She introduced her husband who is also a former volunteer. She talked about meeting with the President of Pakistan in a former position in the Peace Corps and how she was asked "Why do young Americans volunteer and how can I encourage Pakistani youth to do the same." She concluded by saying that the Peace Corps is not a calling for the faint of heart.
QUESTIONS TO THE NOMINEES
Senator Dodd began his questioning of the nominees by saying Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Olsen had both made very good statements. He talked about a meeting he had had in California a few days ago with Returned Volunteers and how one volunteer who was recently evacuated from Uzbekistan talked about leaving the country and how disappointed she was to be leaving. Senator Dodd talked about Charles Baquet and what a terrific job he had done as Acting Director for the past several months
Mr. Dodd's first question was to Mr. Vasquez asking if partisan politics should play a roll in selecting Country Directors. Mr. Vasquez replied that his first consideration in selecting Country Directors would be their qualifications - that he was looking for the best and the brightest. Senator Dodd followed up and asked what Mr. Vasquez would do if he received a call from the White House saying they had this wonderful campaign worker and could you find him a job in the Peace Corps. Mr. Vasquez's answer seemed to leave the door open to taking politics into account for Country Directorships.
Senator Dodd next asked about the size of the Peace Corps and what Mr. Vasquez thought about the goal of reaching 10,000 volunteers by the year 2003. Mr. Vasquez fumbled his answer by saying that was something he was going to study when he became Director and that he didn't want to over-expand the Peace Corps if this was going to be a disservice to the individual volunteers in the Peace Corps. Senator Dodd followed up by saying that Congress had voted to increase the size of the Peace Corps to 10,000, they had appropriated funds to do it and he wanted to know, yes or no, if Mr. Vasquez was going to follow the law that had been mandated by Congress and work to expand the Peace Corps to 10,000 volunteers. Mr. Vasquez backtracked and said that yes, he would support a Peace Corps with 10,000 volunteers as mandated by Congress.
Senator Chaffee began his questioning by stating that there had been a mini-campaign in opposition to Mr. Vasquez's Directorship. He then asked Mr. Vasquez to give his explanation of the Orange County bankruptcy. Mr. Vasquez said that the County Treasurer was responsible for managing the funds in the County pool, that the Treasurer had failed to properly inform the Board of Supervisors what he was doing, that the California State Auditor had not seen it coming and that the Board of Supervisors had used the services of every professional and had not seen the bankruptcy coming either. At the end of the bankruptcy, the County Treasurer pled guilty to six felony counts.
Senator Chaffee asked Jody Olsen what the Peace Corps should do to address safety of volunteers overseas. She answered by saying that safety would be addressed in training, that the Peace Corps would review emergency procedures and keep them updated.
Senator Sarbanes began by asking Mr. Vasquez if it was true that Mr. Vasquez was initially appointed a Supervisor of Orange County, if he was subsequently elected to the position twice, and that he had resigned from office prior to the completion of his second term? When Mr. Vasquez replied yes, Senator Sarbanes asked "Why did you resign?" Mr. Vasquez appeared taken aback by the question and answered that he had achieved his goals for Orange County, he had put in place a recovery plan for Orange County after the bankruptcy, and that he resigned because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Senator Sarbanes followed up by asking if Mr. Vasquez didn't think that he had an obligation to the constituency that elected him to complete his elected term? Mr. Vasquez responded by saying that he had only a little more than a year left in his term to serve, that it was very important for him to spend more time with his family, and that anyway he had already done all he could to stabilize the condition of the county.
Senator Sarbanes next said that he had heard that there was a recall campaign started against Mr. Vasquez in Orange County. What about that?
Mr. Vasquez responded by saying that there was no recall campaign in place, that there had only been an intention to file a petition, and that no signatures had been gathered and that the recall campaign had nothing to do with his decision to resign from the Board of Supervisors.
Senator Sarbanes asked how the nomination for Peace Corps Director had come about. Did Mr. Vasquez seek this nomination? Mr. Vasquez replied that he had expressed an interest in the Peace Corps. Senator Sarbanes asked if he ever served as a volunteer and Mr. Vasquez replied that no, he did not but that he had been motivated and touched by television commercials he had seen about the Peace Corps when he was younger. Mr. Vasquez said that he would have liked to have served in the Peace Corps but that he was the first in his family to attend college and that because of his poor background he did not have the financial means to go abroad.
Senator Sarbanes asked if Mr. Vasquez's interest in the Peace Corps had ever manifested itself in the past in any way by serving on committees or commissions and Mr. Vasquez answered no.
Senator Sarbanes asked Mr. Vasquez if the Directorship of the Peace Corps had been the only job in the new administration that he had been interested in or if there were other positions he had expressed interest in and Mr. Vasquez replied that there had been a range of possibilities.
Senator Sarbanes asked why it had taken so long for Mr. Vasquez's nomination to arrive at the Senate if he had initially discussed the position soon after President Bush took office and Mr. Vasquez replied that in June he had had heart bypass surgery and had been in recovery for 12 weeks but that he had recovered very well.
Senator Sarbanes had to leave for a vote and Senator Dodd resumed questioning. He began by asking Mr. Vasquez if he could identify any weaknesses in the Peace Corps. Mr. Vasquez replied that he wasn't sure he could identify any weakness in the Peace Corps but that the Peace Corps had a tremendous brand name. He said that many people don't know what the Peace Corps does these days or even that it is still around and that as Director he is going to make a strategic effort to reacquaint the country with the Peace corps.
Senator Dodd asked what are we to make of the fact that so many people who served in the Peace Corps are upset about your nomination. Mr. Vasquez replied that he thought that many people were unacquainted with some of the facts in his background such as the fact that he had been an executive in a Fortune 500 company.
Senator Dodd asked what Mr. Vasquez's response was to the LA Times editorial which talked of Mr. Vasquez as a "timid, public official" in his response to the Orange County bankruptcy and that the Board of Supervisors were "asleep at the switch" in their response. Mr. Vasquez replied that he respectfully disagreed that he was not content to be a clock-watcher but wanted to be known as a clock maker.
Senator Dodd asked Mr. Vasquez to respond to the SEC report that said "supervisors were aware of material information but failed to take appropriate steps" and they "did not fulfill their obligations". Mr. Vasquez replied that we reviewed the information and that we did ask the right questions.
Senator Sarbanes returned and began an exchange with Mr. Vasquez around the statement that good managers have to be willing to admit it when they make mistakes, that a good manager doesn't always say it is somebody else's fault, and that they have to have a sense of realism, Mr. Vasquez replied that the Supervisors didn't do anything amiss, that he had worked in law enforcement and knew the difference between an infraction and serious misconduct. Senator Sarbanes followed up by saying that the SEC report said the supervisors "did not fulfill their obligation." How do you square that with your statement that you didn't make any mistakes? Mr. Vasquez replied that he did the best job to the best of his ability.
Senator Sarbanes said that that didn't square with what outside observers were saying about this situation, that everyone makes mistakes, and that we have to be able to admit it when we make mistakes and say here's where we went wrong. "Are you saying that all these other judgments were wrong, Mr. Vasquez?" to which Mr. Vasquez replied that what he did was ok.
Senator Sarbanes then asked how do you square that with the statement by Governor Wilson when he said that the Orange County Board of Supervisors abdicated their responsibility. The committee then went into recess as the Senators had to leave to make a floor vote.
After the committee reconvened, Senator Dodd said he wanted to give Mr. Vasquez a chance to talk about the vote that he made in 1992 where the Board of Supervisors denied housing rights and job protection to people with HIV/AIDS. Mr. Vasquez replied that he supported existing programs, that there were already laws on the books at a Federal level and State level to assure non-discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS and that he abhorred discrimination.
Senator Dodd asked if the same vote were taken today, would you change your vote? Mr. Vasquez replied that he could not say and that he would have to see the bill in front of him to make a decision. Senator Dodd followed up by saying that "I am trying to help you here, Mr. Vasquez".
Senator Dodd asked Mr. Vasquez about all the correspondence he had received from returned volunteers expressing their reservations about his nomination and asked Mr. Vasquez about the third goal for the Peace Corps and how he would connect with RPCV's if he were confirmed. Mr. Vasquez said he had sat down with returned volunteers in Orange County and in Los Angeles and that he would give the highest priority to being a good listener, that he wanted to capitalize on the knowledge the returned volunteers had and that RPCV opposition to his nomination would not deter him from outreach to the returned volunteer community.
Senator Dodd asked about Peace Corps Programs and where we should put our emphasis. Senator Dodd said that in the past the Peace Corps wasn't afraid to be in places that were very tough and wondered where Mr. Vasquez thought we should put our Program focus. Mr. Vasquez replied that he would need to assess and evaluate where we had been and that one of his focuses was going to be to make the Peace Corps a household word. Jody Olsen also replied to this question and talked about volunteers working in an urban environment - for example a program in the Dominican Republic working with the homeless and prostitutes in an urban environment. She talked about program shifts in training, work with HIV/AIDS, and new technology like the Internet for the Peace Corps.
This concluded Mr. Vasquez's portion of the hearings.
DIRECTOR VAUGHN'S STATEMENT
Jack Hood Vaughn, the second Director of the Peace Corps was called to testify. Senator Dodd welcomed him and said that Director Vaughn had been Director of the Peace Corps while he was serving overseas and that the Senator knew and respected Director Vaughn.
Director Vaughn began by saying that the reason that he was here today was that a few months ago he had begun to receive volumes of emails from returned volunteers all over the world, that he had received clippings from California newspapers and all expressed indignation that a man like Gaddi Vasquez would be nominated as Director of the Peace Corps because he gave $100,000 to the Bush campaign.
He said that Mr. Vasquez's performance providing oversight of the County Treasurer when he was on the Orange County Board of Supervisors didn't work and asked where does the buck stop?
He said that Mr. Vasquez had shown so little interest in foreign affairs that the only real travel Mr. Vasquez had made overseas was to a ceremony in Bohemia. Director Vaughn said that a Director has to be overseas savvy and that if he were to get together with Senator Dodd they could probably come up with 50 or 60 names of returned volunteers who would be superior to Mr. Vasquez in that sense.
Director Vaughn said that Mr. Vasquez had a lack of management experience and had never had to run anything let alone an agency as large as the Peace Corps.
Director Vaughn said that Mr. Vasquez had no diplomatic experience.
Director Vaughn said that with the cloud of the Orange County bankruptcy hanging over his head, that if Mr. Vasquez were applying to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, he would not be invited today.
Finally, Director Vaughn said, at this juncture, after the 911 wake up call of the twin towers hanging over us, we need to rethink and recast the role of the Peace Corps in the world. I have been thinking about it - I know Sargent Shriver has also. And you have to have a heavyweight at the top of the Peace Corps not a rank, total amateur.
He concluded by saying that we need to convince your committee and George W. Bush that now more than ever we need a heavyweight at the Peace Corps, and that we know dozens of such people, including you Senator Dodd. President Bush has put together a first rate team with Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and that Mr. Vasquez doesn't bring the same level of background for the Peace Corps. There is nothing personal here but we can't afford to have on-the-job training for the Peace Corps Director at this time.
Senator Dodd concluded the hearings by saying that he wants to review the record and the testimony today. That deference ought to be shown to the President for putting together his political family. Senator Dodd said that years ago he voted against someone and that they were confirmed anyway, that that person went on to do a good job, and that Senator Dodd later wrote him a note and apologized. That nominee was Dr. Koop for Surgeon General. Senator Dodd said that questions had been also raised about Loret Ruppe and that she had turned out to be a great Director.
Senator Dodd adjourned the meeting.
|By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, November 17, 2001 - 1:28 pm: Edit Post|
Questions have been raised in a posting made to Yahoo Clubs that Peace Corps Online has been inaccurate in our coverage of Gaddi Vasquez's Confirmation Hearings.
For the record, we stand by the accuracy of the reporting we have provided on this site and, as we have stated previously, when the official transcripts of the hearings are available from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we will be posting them to this site so readers can make their own determination.
Readers can already make a determination by going to paragraph 5 in our article above to read for yourself whether the allegation that we chose to omit Senator Boxer's remarks regarding the advertisement in Roll Call is a true statement or not.