November 15, 2001 - LA Times: Vasquez Makes Pitch for Post Hearing

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2001: 11 November 2001 Peace Corps Headlines: November 15, 2001 - LA Times: Vasquez Makes Pitch for Post Hearing

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, November 17, 2001 - 5:35 pm: Edit Post

The followign article appeared in the LA Times the day after the confirmation hearings and provides the Times assessment of how the hearings went:

Vasquez Makes Pitch for Post Hearing

Vasquez Makes Pitch for Post Hearing:

Ex-supervisor says that as Peace Corps director he would add volunteers. Senate panel may vote within weeks.


WASHINGTON -- Former Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez pledged Wednesday that as Peace Corps director he would expand opportunities for Americans to volunteer for service abroad.

Despite the fact that Vasquez's nomination is strongly opposed by some former Peace Corps volunteers, who say the agency should be headed by someone with overseas experience, it appears likely he will be confirmed.

Only three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attended the hearing at which Vasquez, 46, said he would seek to ensure that the 40-year-old agency established by President John F. Kennedy provides a "rewarding opportunity . . . available for more Americans." The panel will probably vote on the nomination after the Thanksgiving break.

A bipartisan group of Californians--Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Garden Grove and Republican Rep. Christopher Cox of Newport Beach--already has supported Vasquez's nomination. But a group of former Peace Corps volunteers, headed by former director Jack Hood Vaughn, has expressed opposition, contending that Vasquez lacks experience in foreign affairs and failed to head off the bankruptcy of Orange County seven years ago.

"I'm very pleased that a Californian has been chosen for this honor," Boxer told the panel. "This is not an easy job. But I know Gaddi is up to the task."

The Peace Corps is a $275-million-a-year agency that fields 7,300 volunteers in more than 70 countries.

Boxer said Vasquez's experience as a local law-enforcement officer "will serve him well in providing for the security of volunteers."

Sanchez said Vasquez "has all the potential to be the greatest director the Peace Corps has had."

Cox praised the nominee as "the right person for this job at the right time who will promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding of the American people."

Cox also defended Vasquez against allegations that he failed Orange County in the months before he resigned as chairman of the Board of Supervisors in late 1995.

Rather, Vasquez was "tested under fire" in helping shape a program for the county that ultimately emerged from its financial catastrophe, Cox testified. Cox attributed the bankruptcy to "the criminal fraud of the county treasurer" and declared that today, "Orange County's bonds are among the highest-rated in the nation."

During his testimony, Vasquez said, in response to questions from Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), that he and his colleagues "did our utmost to be vigilant as supervisors."

He said he resigned from the board "to focus on my family only after I had achieved the goals and objectives I had set out for the county's recovery, which occurred 24 months after the bankruptcy."

Critics have claimed that Vasquez's resignation came just ahead of a recall campaign and a 1996 grand jury investigation that led to accusations of willful misconduct against two colleagues.

Sarbanes also noted that Vasquez was cited in a scathing 1996 U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission report that accused the supervisors and other Orange County officials of misleading and defrauding buyers of $2.1 billion in municipal securities, leading up to the bankruptcy in which Orange County lost $1.64 billion.

Vasquez responded that he strongly disagreed with the SEC report. "I exercised the best judgment I could," he said.

Objecting to the nomination, Vaughn said Vasquez "does not possess the qualifications, leadership tools or the demonstrated financial management skills to head a large federal agency."

Vaughn, who directed the Peace Corps from 1966 to 1969, said a number of volunteers with whom he has communicated share his views.

However, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who chaired the hearing, said that speaking as a onetime Peace Corps volunteer, "there have been a number of Peace Corps directors who assumed office with little hands-on experience who turned out to be superb directors."

Earlier in the day, the committee unanimously endorsed Orange County businessman George L. Argyros as ambassador to Spain, sending the nomination to the full Senate. A committee official said the Senate could vote by mid-December.

The committee approved Argyros' appointment after a sparsely attended, single-question hearing Oct. 31.

His appointment had drawn scattered opposition from Orange County residents upset with Argyros' Arnel Management, the largest apartment owner in the county. The firm agreed in September to pay $1.5 million to settle consumer complaints that it had illegally kept tenants' security deposits.

Argyros, whose personal wealth is estimated at $1 billion, recently made it to Forbes magazines' annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. The former owner of Air Cal and the Seattle Mariners baseball team has been generous to Republican causes and led a $30-million fund-raising campaign in California for President Bush in last year's election.

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