Federal Agency Chief Is Fired for the Most Unbelievable Reason

Sometimes you just scratch your head.

The deputy administrator, who is also the acting administrator, of the Federal Railroad Administration has been forced to resign because he was moonlighting.

Heath Hall became the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting chief after being appointed deputy administrator in June. But he subsequently appeared at least twice in local media reports last summer as a sheriff’s department spokesman in Madison County, Miss., where he has long run a public relations and political consulting firm.

The firm also continued to receive payments from the county for its services from July through December, despite Hall’s pledge in a federal ethics form that the business would be “dormant” while he worked at DOT. And Tiffany Lindemann, a former FRA public affairs official who left the agency in September, told POLITICO this week that she had fielded at least three requests from a Mississippi television journalist seeking to speak with Hall during the summer.

Hall was appointed in June. This is his bio via the trade magazine Railway Age:

Hall is currently a vice president in the marketing and external affairs department of non-profit Innovate Mississippi. He also manages Pointe Innovation magazine. Prior to joining Innovate Mississippi, he served as senior vice president of external affairs at the Mississippi Economic Council, the State Chamber of Commerces. He served for two years (1998-1999) as executive director of Mississippians for Civil Justice Reform/STOP Lawsuit Abuse in Mississippi. In 1998, he was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress in Mississippi’s fourth congressional district. Hall also served as Governor Kirk Fordice’s director of public affairs, deputy press secretary, and deputy director of communications for Fordice’s re-election campaign.

The FRA is a sleepy, backwater agency and it is entirely possible that Hall could have run a public relations agency while serving as acting administrator–no, the FRA had and has no role in the recent spate of Amtrak accidents beyond investigating them–but there is a principle involved here. The FRA deputy is a Senior Executive Service position and the brazenness of acting as a spokesman for a private client while acting as FRA administrator is a bit much.

An administrator has been nominated but Chuck Schumer is blocking a vote in order to get Mrs. McConnell, who is the Transportation Secretary, to pay for a massive rail project around New York City.

In his book, A Parliament of Whores, P. J. O’Rourke described the difference between the parties this way:

In this case we seem to have found the epitome of bipartisanship.