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RTC Investigator Claims Suspension Is 'Retribution' : Whitewater: One of three agents placed on leave contends the agency acted in response to their probe of a failed thrift linked to the Clintons.

August 20, 1994|JAMES RISEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — A senior investigator charged Friday that top officials at the Resolution Trust Corp. have engaged in a "program of retribution" against the agency's field personnel who have investigated a failed Arkansas savings and loan owned by a friend of President Clinton.

L. Richard Iorio, a supervisor in the criminal investigations office of the RTC's Kansas City regional office, complained through his attorney that the agency's decision to place Iorio and two other investigators on administrative leave will interfere with the ongoing investigation.

In a letter to Jack Ryan, acting chief executive of the RTC, Iorio's attorney wrote that the agency's decision to suspend the three while conducting an internal inquiry of their actions could send the "strong chilling message that those who investigate (Whitewater-related cases) may face allegations of wrongdoing."

Iorio, fellow supervisor Lee Ausen and investigator Jean Lewis were placed on leave Aug. 15 by the RTC, the agency charged with cleaning up the 1980s' S&L failures.

RTC attorney April Breslaw testified during recent congressional Whitewater hearings that Lewis secretly tape-recorded her conversations during a February meeting in Kansas City as part of what Breslaw implied was a conspiracy by the investigators to compromise her attempts to determine the scope and direction of their inquiry.

RTC spokesman Steve Katsanos said this week that the charges were serious enough to warrant an investigation by the RTC. If the three violated RTC policies, they could be subject to termination.

The RTC's Kansas City field office was investigating Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, an Arkansas thrift owned by James B. McDougal, partner of then-Gov. Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the Whitewater real estate venture. Until last October, Lewis was the lead investigator on the case and filed two criminal referrals to the Justice Department naming the Clintons and President Clinton's 1984 gubernatorial campaign as possible beneficiaries of criminal acts at Madison Guaranty.

In the letter, Iorio's attorney said his client agreed with Lewis that, as early as February, he and his staff were warned that certain key RTC managers would take a "dim view" of their investigation of Madison Guaranty. The letter demanded that the internal RTC inquiry of the three Kansas City officials be transferred to an independent inspector general.

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