February 4, 2011 by staff
Cynthia Stroum, (AP) – As a supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama, Cynthia Struma was a superstar whose financial support of the campaign earned him a plum diplomatic post in Europe. As U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, the wife of wealthy businessman based in Seattle was a disaster. According to an internal State Department on Thursday, less than a week after her departure, the management of the Struma U.S. embassy in the tiny country was catastrophic. The report states that the mandate of about one year was fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor.
Struma case illustrates the pitfalls that presidents may face when they appoint non-career diplomats was ambassador to reward political support. The Embassy of Luxembourg “has underperformed for the entire term of the current ambassador,” said the report, which was prepared before last fall, she resigned abruptly. “Currently, in due to internal problems, it plays no significant role in promoting political relations, but changes in Luxembourg are of interest to customers in Washington and other U.S. missions in NATO and communities of the EU. ”
Struma resigned Jan. 31, just days before the damning report of the Inspector General of the State Department was made public. A message left with a person who answered the phone at her home in Seattle said she was unavailable for comment. The call was not returned.
In a farewell message published in the Luxembourg press, Struma said she was leaving her job because she wanted to return to private life. “The reality is that I must now concentrate on my family business and personal,” she said.
At the State Department, her departure was not announced. Spokesman Mark Toner gave no hint of problems when asked about the situation. “We are grateful for her service in the U.S. and we wish him luck in her new role, he said.
But the report paints a picture of a corrosive atmosphere in the small embassy with the ambassador who tramples on the staff, threatening to read their e-mails, largely concerned about employment-related benefits and participated in the acquisition abusive.
The situation was so bad that the inspector general recommended that the State Department to send medical personnel in Luxembourg to test the stress level of employees of the embassy. He said at least four staff members quit or sought transfers to Iraq and Afghanistan during her term, unusual measures for diplomats posted to a modern capital of Western Europe.
“Most of the internal problems of the mission are linked to her leadership deficiencies, the most damaging of which is an abusive management style,” the report said. “She followed a pattern of public criticism of her colleagues, including including (MPs) who have not performed to her satisfaction. ”
“Those who have questioned or challenged some of the state of the Ambassador of the shares they have paid a heavy price in the form of verbal abuse and been threatened with dismissal,” he said.
The report states that the State Department was aware of the situation and the apparent lack of action against it could be dangerous. “It is unfortunate that the impression is being created between leaders and local employees in the mission that this kind of behavior can be systematically condoned by the leadership of the State Department, particularly for non-career ambassadors. ”
Struma began her diplomatic career short in 2009 when Obama her candidacy Poppa U.S. Ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a tiny nation of 500,000 people on the size of Rhode Island and surrounded by France, Belgium and Germany.
Apart from her business experience as an investor, show producer and philanthropist active in numerous charities, the main qualification for the position Struma appeared to be generous contribution to democratic politicians and causes, including the campaign Obama.
Financial reports say Struma given the maximum amount of staff to Obama’s campaign. She has also donated 2,300 to the presidential campaign has no former Senator John Edwards.
As a fundraiser, records show she was responsible for ginning up at least 500,000 and for Obama, put it near the top of generating money for the campaign.
The inspector general said he had learned through interviews with employees of the embassy Struma, shortly after her arrival in Luxembourg, discussed with them “the importance it attaches to the itch” to be an ambassador. As such, it is particularly concerned about the state of residence of the ambassador, who was undergoing renovation, he said.
Due to renovation, Struma sought temporary housing. An embassy official has spent six weeks looking for a suitable property and, using contacts in Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and France with two officials from the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, screening of 200 properties and visited 30 to 40.
They found only four that qualified for the ambassador and she rejected them all, according to the report, before a home was finally found acceptable.
Apart from these difficulties and management problems, the report identified several irregularities while Struma was supported in Luxembourg. Among them:
- Struma past 2,400 to fly with a Swiss aid “vocational school” whose graduates have continued working for Buckingham Palace and other venues similar to interviewing candidates to replace a guardian of property retired and a head shot. The purpose of this trip was listed as “management meetings.” Although no school has been hired as a recruit is allowed only if no qualified local staff. In addition, they have not obtained the proper authorization for the trip.
- Embassy in 3400 and bought the wine and alcohol one day before the 2010 financial year resulted in an effort to spend as much of its funding from annual entertainment as possible. Alcohol does not arrive until the next fiscal year and the State Department rules say embassies are not allowed “to use the surplus funds at year-end” to purchase items unless they are used in the year.
- Struma was reimbursed for the purchase of a new bed, because she “prefers a queen in the king-size bed already planned.” The embassy has asked twice to Washington to repay the amount, but was refused because it was a personal choice. Despite the refusal, the No. 2 at the embassy signed a good “ambassador to repay the cost of the mattress out of program funds.” The report indicates that the Coupon must be repaid.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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