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Former public broadcasting chief violated ethics, investigators allege

Tomlinson said to exceed powers in bid to aid GOP

WASHINGTON -- The former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting repeatedly violated the organization's rules and code of ethics in his efforts to promote conservatives in the system, an endeavor that included consultation with White House officials, according to an internal investigation released yesterday.

The 67-page report, the culmination of a six-month investigation by Kenneth A. Konz, the corporation's inspector general, portrayed former chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson as a rogue appointee who often exceeded his authority in his determination to right what he viewed as a liberal tilt in public broadcasting.

Konz's report depicted the corporation as a dysfunctional institution in which there has been little oversight over hiring and contracting and minimal communication between the professional staff and the politically appointed board.

In a statement included in the inspector general's report, Tomlinson, who resigned his board position earlier this month, denied wrongdoing. He called the findings a triumph of ''politics over good judgment" and disputed the allegations as ''malicious and irresponsible."

''Unfortunately, the inspector general's preconceived and unjustified findings will only help to maintain the status quo, and other reformers will be discouraged from seeking change," he said.

According to the report, Tomlinson consulted with Bush administration officials, including Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, about his efforts, Konz found, even though the former chairman told the Los Angeles Times in May that he had had ''absolutely no contact from anyone at the White House saying we need to do this or that with public broadcasting."

But Konz said he discovered that in late 2003 and again earlier this year, Tomlinson exchanged e-mails with White House officials about possible candidates to serve as the corporation's president. Some of the e-mails discussed Tomlinson's desire to hire Patricia Harrison, a former Republican Party cochairwoman, whom the board appointed to the post in June.

''While cryptic in nature, their timing and subject matter gives the appearance that the former chairman was strongly motivated by political considerations in filling the president/CEO position," Konz wrote.

In an interview, the inspector general said Tomlinson exchanged e-mails with ''two or three" White House officials, including Rove. He declined to name the other officials.

The report said that Tomlinson was so zealous about the need to bring the political balance farther to the right that he instructed corporation staff to threaten to withhold funds from PBS to achieve it, an act that would have required congressional approval.

Corporation officials declined to comment on Tomlinson's specific actions, but board chairwoman Cheryl Halpern called Konz's findings ''bracing" and pledged to swiftly institute changes. During a morning meeting at the organization's Washington headquarters, the board approved the creation of committees aimed at improving checks and balances.

Harrison said she was determined to repair ''a rip in trust" created by the furor over Tomlinson's actions.

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