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THE NATION

Another White House aide resigns

Suspected of misusing grant funds at a prior job, Felipe Sixto is the second assistant in a month to step down.

March 29, 2008|James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — For the second time in four weeks, a mid-level White House aide has resigned under a cloud, this time for allegedly misusing money provided to a previous employer by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said Friday that Felipe Sixto, who began work at the White House in July as associate director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, had resigned March 20. Three weeks earlier he had been promoted to special assistant to the president, two levels below the top staff post.

Stanzel said Sixto, a lawyer, stepped down in connection with an alleged conflict of interest while he was chief of staff at the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba. The center describes itself as an independent organization that promotes human rights and democracy in Cuba.

"Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with regard to how USAID funds were utilized while in his previous employment," Stanzel said.

He said the matter was being looked into by the White House counsel's office and had been referred to the Justice Department. He also said that USAID's inspector general was investigating.

Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, said that it has a $2.2-million USAID grant, which makes up most of the current budget of about $2.5 million. He said he did not know how much money was involved in the alleged mishandling.

"We hope to get all the funds back," he said. "I believe . . . no one currently at the center was involved or is involved in anything related to mishandling of anything."

Sixto's departure from the White House follows that of Timothy Goeglein, who was Bush's representative to conservative and Christian groups. Goeglein quit after it was revealed that nearly two dozen columns he wrote for a newspaper in Indiana contained material copied without attribution from other writers.

Sixto's job at the White House involved federal government policies and politics related to native Americans, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Stanzel said that White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten informed President Bush on Thursday about the allegations and that Bush said Sixto was taking the proper step in resigning.

The spokesman said he wasn't sure whether any of the alleged activities under investigation took place during Sixto's White House tenure.

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james.gerstenzang@ latimes.com

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