The Center for a
Free Cuba and his former chief of staff are currently under active
investigation by Justice Department
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 29, 2008; A mid-level White House staff member has
resigned after informing officials of allegations that he misused
federal grant money for personal gain before he joined the government, a
White House official said yesterday.
Felipe Sixto quit as special assistant to President Bush on March 20
after learning that the nonprofit Center for a Free Cuba planned to take
legal action against him, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
Sixto was chief of staff at the Washington-based group for about three
years before joining the White House's Office of Intergovernmental
Affairs last July.
The matter has been referred to the Justice Department, and the
inspector general at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the
source of the grant funds, was investigating as well, Stanzel said.
"The president was notified about this," Stanzel said. "He thought the
proper actions were being taken and the matter should be appropriately
Sixto, 28, did not return two telephone messages left yesterday at his
home in Frederick.
Neither the White House nor the nonprofit would discuss specific
allegations, how much was allegedly misused or how it was used.
Sixto's resignation comes on the heels of another mid-level staff
member's abrupt departure from the White House. Special assistant Tim
Goeglein resigned Feb. 29 after acknowledging that he had plagiarized
material for a newspaper column.
Sixto was the Bush administration's liaison with state lawmakers and
minority advocacy groups on issues involving Cuba, Puerto Rico, the
environment, health, transportation, energy and labor, Stanzel said. He
was promoted to special assistant on March 1.
The Center for a Free Cuba learned of the allegations in January and
alerted USAID and began an internal investigation, said Frank Calzon,
the group's executive director.
Calzon said the group, established in 1997, has received federal funding
for 11 years to help promote human rights and democratic ideals in Cuba.
The grant money, about $2.3 million in the most recent year, helps pay
for travel and supplies such as books, medicine, clothing and shortwave
radios, he said.
"We welcome the investigation," Calzon said. "We want to get to the
bottom of it."
Other news in reference:
National Press Release
From Jeff Grieco, USAID Assistant Administrator for Legislative and
Public Affairs: On the Issue of the Center for a Free Cuba
WASHINGTON, March 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With regard to the issue
of Mr. Felipe Sixto and the Center for a Free Cuba, USAID has referred
the matter to the USAID Office of Inspector General, and it is currently
under active investigation. USAID cannot provide further comment on this
investigation. If you have questions, please contact the USAID Office of
Inspector General at 202-712-1653.
For more information on USAID, please visit http://www.usaid.gov.
U.S. Agency for International Development Public Information Office:
SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development
Other news in reference:
March 28, 2008 1:46 p.m. PT
Bush aide resigns for
By Terence Hunt
AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON -- An aide to President Bush has resigned because of his
alleged misuse of grant money from the U.S. Agency for International
Development when he worked for a Cuban democracy organization.
Felipe Sixto was promoted on March 1 as a special assistant to the
president for intergovernmental affairs and stepped forward on March 20
to reveal his alleged wrongdoing and to resign, White House spokesman
Scott Stanzel said on Friday. He said Sixto took that step after
learning that his former employer, the Center for a Free Cuba, was
prepared to initiate legal action against him.
The alleged wrongdoing occurred when Sixto was chief of staff at the
center, where he worked for more than three years before moving to the
The matter has been turned over to the Justice Department for
investigation, Stanzel said. He said Bush was briefed on the case and
felt that the appropriate action was being taken.
The Center for a Free Cuba describes itself as an independent,
nonpartisan institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a
transition to democracy and the rule of law in Cuba. Frank Calzon, the
center's executive director, said it receives "a couple million dollars"
a year from USAID for rent, travel and equipment such as shortwave
radios and laptops. He said the center welcomed the investigation and
pledged complete cooperation.
Sixto joined the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in July 2007 and
was assigned to deal with state legislators, Native American groups and
Hispanic officials on issues such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, health, labor,
transportation, the environment and energy, Stanzel said.
"Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID
funds," Stanzel said. He said he did not know how much money was
involved or the particulars of the allegations.
Sixto is the second White House aide to resign under a cloud in less
than a month. Timothy Goeglein, who served as Bush's middleman with
conservatives and Christian groups, resigned on Feb. 29 after admitting
to plagiarism. Twenty columns he wrote for an Indiana newspaper were
determined to have material copied from other sources without
Goeglein was a special assistant to Bush and deputy director of the
Office of Public Liaison.
Calzon said the Center for a Free Cuba "received an allegation" in
mid-January about the possible misuse of funds and within days formed a
fact-finding team. He said USAID was alerted within a few days. "After
several weeks of investigating, we discovered there was some substance
to it," Calzon said. "A letter went from our lawyer to the inspector
general of USAID."