"Working together for a free Cuba"




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 investigated."

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: 202-712-4810

SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development

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March 28, 2008 1:46 p.m. PT

Bush aide resigns for alleged wrongdoing
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 White House.

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 attribution.

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."