IG Report Questions Former Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Travel Expenses
By Andrew Ramonas | November 12, 2010 11:14 am

A former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles is among the ex-U.S. Attorneys scrutinized for excessive travel by the Justice Department Inspector General, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Thomas P. O'Brien (Paul Hastings)

Thomas P. O’Brien, who was the Central District of California U.S. Attorney from 2007 to 2009, is “U.S. Attorney D” in the Inspector General report released Monday that lists five unnamed former U.S. Attorneys who “routinely exceeded the government rate [for lodging], by large amounts, with insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification.”

The former U.S. Attorney exceeded the government rate at hotels six times with “insufficient justification,” the report says. The document notes that three of the hotels did not host the conferences the U.S. Attorney attended. One hotel, the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, Calif., was 20 miles away from the conference he attended in Anaheim, Calif.

For one trip at the end of his tenure, the ex-prosecutor did pay the difference between the government rate and his preferred hotel after a staffer at his U.S. Attorney’s office told him to pay for expenses above the government price.

“We concluded that some of U.S. Attorney D’s claims for reimbursement above the government rate were inappropriate and egregious violations of the travel regulations,” the report says. “We did not find the U.S. Attorney’s attempt to cast blame for these violations on his secretary to be credible or persuasive. His secretary said that she would not have known to book the U.S. Attorney at the particular hotels without his specific instructions, and that he told her to write ’sold out’ to justify being reimbursed for more expensive lodgings. We do not believe that the secretary would have taken these actions on her own initiative.”

O’Brien, now a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP in Los Angeles, said he didn’t do anything wrong, but told the L.A. Times that he takes “full responsibility” for any errors that caused excessive spending. The former U.S. Attorney said he paid DOJ on Tuesday the amount of money to cover the hotel bills the Inspector General report identified as excessive.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and former Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan were also identified as two of the five former prosecutors in the report.

Christie, who was New Jersey U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2008, is “U.S. Attorney C” in the report. He spent more than double the government rate at upscale hotels in D.C. and Boston, according to the report.

Buchanan, who served as Western District of Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2009, is “U.S. Attorney B” in the report. She paid more than the government rate 11 times at upscale hotels in D.C., including the Mayflower, Renaissance, J.W. Marriott and Grand Hyatt, according to the report.

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