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Vasquez OKd as Leader of Peace Corps

Government: The former O.C. supervisor, criticized after the county's bankruptcy, had been opposed in a grass-roots campaign.


WASHINGTON — Gaddi H. Vasquez, a cop turned Orange County politician before he moved into the executive ranks of Southern California Edison, was confirmed Friday as director of the Peace Corps, one of the nation's most respected international humanitarian programs.

The approval came without dissent as the U.S. Senate acted on more than 30 Bush administration appointments, some of which had hung in limbo for weeks while the Senate wrestled with the White House over unrelated issues.

"I am very pleased that the U.S. Senate has confirmed my nomination from President Bush," Vasquez said in a prepared statement released through the Peace Corps. "I look forward to coming to the Peace Corps and working with this fine organization that means so much to the world."

Vasquez, an Edison divisional vice president for public affairs, could not be reached for comment.

The confirmation was one of many made by unanimous consent in a nearly empty Senate chamber. Among the appointees was Harold Craig Manson as assistant secretary of the Interior Department for fish and wildlife. Manson served as chief counsel of the state Department of Fish and Game under Gov. Pete Wilson, and is a Sacramento County Superior Court judge.

The quiet approval of Vasquez contrasted with the opposition that erupted when the nomination was made in July. Former Peace Corps volunteers mounted a grass-roots campaign against Vasquez over questions about his role in the Orange County bankruptcy, and his credentials to run a $265-million agency fielding 7,300 volunteers in 70 countries.

Vasquez's detractors greeted Friday's vote with frustrated resignation.

"I think we expected it, and I think it's wait-and-see at this point," said former volunteer Barbara Ferris. "I can assure you that we will watch his tenure closely."

Vasquez has neither direct experience in international humanitarian issues, nor as a chief executive in the public or private sectors.

"I think this is a perfect and kind of sad example of what happens when campaign contributions determine who is selected to run government agencies," said John Coyne, editor of and director of the New York Regional Recruiting Office of the Peace Corps.

Yet supporters of Vasquez say many former Peace Corps directors came to the job similarly shrouded in questions and excelled.

Although former volunteers form a large support network for the agency, Peace Corps spokeswoman Ellen Field said she doubted that the wrangling over the nomination would significantly affect relations within the agency.

"The opposition was a very, very small number of people, and the overwhelming majority have the best interests of the agency at heart," Field said.

Vasquez's nomination was a reemergence for the once-rising Latino GOP star who resigned as a county supervisor in 1995, nine months after the county filed for bankruptcy in an investment scandal.

Vasquez was cited in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission report that accused county officials of misleading and defrauding buyers of $2.1 billion in municipal securities, findings that Vasquez rejected.

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