The announcement came less than a week after the two Republicans on the Page Board resigned to protest what they viewed as the clerk’s failure to tell them about the dismissal of two pages for shoplifting and two more for sexual misconduct. A fifth page was also dismissed in October for fighting on the House floor, according to a document reviewed by Politico.
None of the incidents involved members of Congress.
“Today we agreed to direct the House inspector general to conduct an independent investigation into recent allegations surrounding the House page program,” the two House leaders said in a joint statement Wednesday night. “We expect the inspector general to gather the facts and recommend the appropriate and necessary corrective actions to be taken by the House.
“We will also work together to select a highly regarded, independent entity to conduct a thorough review of the page program’s organization and operation, and make recommendations concerning its long-term future.”
One of the members who had resigned from the Board, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), had called Wednesday for an independent investigation of the program’s management.
In a letter drafted to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Brown-Waite, who resigned last week to protest being kept out of the page-program loop by House Clerk Lorraine C. Miller, said an outside panel should examine the role of the staff overseeing the program.
Brown-Waite said she did not know about the page dismissals until she had resigned her post on the board.
A call to the House clerk’s office was referred to the House Administration Committee, and calls there were not returned Wednesday.
Since her resignation from the board, Brown-Waite said she received a call from a parent incensed to learn that a guest speaker came in several months ago to talk to the high-school-age pages about abortion.
Last week, Miller defended the program during her tenure as clerk.
She said that page program supervisors “adopted a zero-tolerance policy when faced with rules violations or conduct that is ethically or legally suspect.”
“These recent dismissals are an example of our willingness to exercise our option of immediate dismissal from the program, an option that we will continue to exercise when appropriate and warranted,” she said.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who also resigned from the page board last week after learning about the incidents, “has no plan” to join Brown-Waite in calling for an investigation, said her spokesman Jonathan Coffin.
Capito and Brown-Waite met with House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to address their resignations as well as their concerns about the lack of dialogue between lawmakers and supervisors of the page program, Coffin said.
Both congresswomen worked to improve the program in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who sent sexually charged online messages to former pages.
Among the changes were an expansion of the board to include an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, as well as a parent and a former page.
“The big issue now is how we can create a real dialogue,” Coffin said. “[The program] is better than it was last year during Foley, but we’re still striking out a little bit.”