BBG Watch Commentary

Questions are being raised as to whether the naming of Leslie Hyland to serve as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) may violate BBG By-Laws and whether the Board has sought and received sound legal advice on this issue.

In a post, “Personnel news from inside BBG, IBB, VOA and RFE/RL as reported and commented on by sources,” we reported on Ms. Hyland being selected for the CFO post and other personnel and management matters. Our post appeared one the before the IBB issued its own announcement, “Leslie Hyland Named Chief Financial Officer At BBG.”

No one is questioning Ms. Hyland’s qualifications. She seems fully qualified for this position. BBG Board members Michael Meehan, Susan McCue and Victor Ashe said that they “are delighted that Leslie Hyland is joining the agency.”

But the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives may have once again shown their lack of clear planning and thinking in how to deal with personnel announcements and management issues.

The By-Laws of the Broadcasting Board of Governors clearly state:

“The IBB Director shall select a Chief Financial Officer and a General Counsel, subject to approval of the Board [Emphasis added], to perform duties consistent with those described herein. The staff of the International Broadcasting Bureau shall perform their duties under the IBB Director’s general direction. The IBB Director should review and evaluate on an annual basis the performance of other senior BBG officers, based on input from the Board and other appropriate sources.”

The BBG By-Laws also state:

Decisions of the Board shall be made by majority vote, a quorum being present. (22 U.S.C. §6203(f)).

At any meeting of the Board of Governors, five (5) members constitute a quorum (22 U.S.C. §6203(f)), but in the absence of a quorum a lesser number may adjourn the meeting.

With only four members currently serving, the BBG Board does not have a quorum.

We are not legal experts, but it seems to us that if approval by the Board of a personnel selection by IBB Director is written into the By-Laws, such an approval would require a Board vote. Can the Board take a vote without a quorum? Can the BBG Board that does not have a quorum make a decision by majority vote, a quorum being present, to approve a Chief Financial Officer selected by the IBB Director?

Such legal questions would usually be referred by IBB Director and BBG members to the agency’s General Counsel. The agency has not had one for about seven years, but sources told us that applications from candidates are now being reviewed for the GC position.

It is possible that IBB Director Richard Lobo had a conversation about the vote issue with the Acting General Counsel Paul Kollmer-Dorsey because sources told us that some time ago Mr. Lobo wondered out loud in a meeting whether any decisions the current Board makes without a quorum are legal and binding on him. It was an interesting question, coming reportedly from Director Lobo, knowing that his IBB executive staff has been accused by Board members and others — this also was reported our sources — of ignoring Board’s decisions and requests his staff disagrees with. On top of that, some suspect IBB executives of actively trying to smear the reputation of individual BBG Board members in private interactions with Administration officials outside the agency.

Another interesting question is whether Mr. Kollmer-Dorsey may have applied for the position of permanent General Counsel. If he has, would it be in his interest, if he is selected, to be named General Counsel even if the Board still does not have a quorum?

We do not know whether or not he has applied for the GC job or has given any legal advice on the issue of Board votes and approvals of IBB Director’s personnel decisions. We do know that the BBG By-Laws say that “IBB Director shall select a Chief Financial Officer and a General Counsel, subject to approval of the Board.” [Emphasis added.]

Can any attorney who may be in a position of applying for the BBG General Counsel job give sound and objective advice on the issue of the Board’s approval without a quorum of IBB Director’s personnel selections?

Should IBB have made the announcement to the public that a selection for the CFO position at the agency had been made if the selection could not have been approved by majority vote of the Board, a quorum being present.

What does all this say about IBB Director Lobo, his staff and their management practices?

It seems to us that the way the IBB handled the situation is unfortunate and unfair to Ms. Hyland. The IBB executive staff should not have been hiding the approval issue from the public but explained it in an appropriate way. IBB executives should have come up with a way of getting Ms. Hyland into her position subject to future approval by the Board, a quorum being present. This is what the By-Laws require. Where did the legal advice, if any, come from? Is this yet another example of secretive, confused and dysfunctional IBB operation?

We wonder what Ms. Hyland thinks about her future employer? A former candidate already selected for the CFO position ultimately declined to accept it. We do, however, wish that she would come on board as announced.

We are hopeful that eventually BBG members will be able to gain control over IBB bureaucracy, reform it and shrink it or that this absolutely necessary reform task will be done by Congress.

Ms. Hyland looks to us like someone who would be an asset to the agency in a desperate need of reform, including financial reform. She could start by asking questions where all the IBB’s technology and social media development money went to since the Voice of America (VOA) English website can barely get a few Facebook “Likes” a day for its top news stories while Al Jazeera, Russia Today and BBC are getting thousands. Why hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on creating bureaucratic positions and on useless contracts, consultants and contractors while news gathering operations, language services, programs and programming positions were cut to the point where VOA can in many cases no longer originate news even in Washington?

Let us also not forget to call to Ms. Hyland’s attention a $50 million contract with Gallup, a company named by the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit alleging overcharging other U.S. government agencies.

She may start asking what kind of value is Gallup providing and how IBB officials in charge of audience research may be changing the way audiences are counted to to be able to claim higher numbers that cannot be compared with the results of previous surveys and thus make them look good.

She may also want to look into frequent foreign and domestic travel by top IBB and VOA executives. Some of them really love to travel, especially those in charge of planning, program evaluation and research?

Another area of possible interest: $7,000 to +$10,000 outstanding performance bonuses which IBB Director Lobo and VOA Director David Ensor like to approve for their top SES executives while the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey gives them the lowest possible marks for management skills in the entire federal government.

A questionable contract to improve employee morale, also the worst in the federal government, should be looked at. Would not the agency save money if it got rid of executives who caused the employee morale to be low in the first place.

Ms. Hyland should also look at IBB executives’ attempt to delay re-hiring of illegally RIFed Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) employees despite legal judgments against the agency. Acting presumably on advice from the Office of General Counsel, IBB is resisting orders to reinstate RIFed employees. This is likely to end up costing U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars. Ms. Hyland can help the agency save some big money and redirect them to news gathering, programs and other core operations.

Someone needs to start asking some tough questions and give Board members sound advice. They don’t seem to be getting it from the IBB executive staff. They already know it. Anybody who can help the Board sort out the IBB mess would be welcome.


BBG Press Release

Leslie Hyland Named Chief Financial Officer At BBG

JULY 11, 2013

Leslie Hyland
Leslie Hyland

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leslie Hyland has been named Chief Financial Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and will start work July 29, the agency announced.

Hyland will be the principal budget, accounting and financial management officer for the BBG and will coordinate closely on budgetary matters with Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

“We are delighted that Leslie Hyland is joining the agency,” said BBG board members Michael Meehan, Susan McCue and Victor Ashe. “She is the right person for this job at a challenging budgetary time for the whole federal government. The BBG will continue finding ways to leverage its resources while meeting the needs of its audiences worldwide, and we are confident that Leslie’s leadership will be key to its success.”

Hyland will plan and coordinate all phases of the agency’s budgetary processes, from yearly formulation and presentation, to justification and execution. She will also provide related advice to the Board and other top BBG officials.

Since 2011, Hyland has served as the Director of Audit and Risk Management at The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Previously, she was the Director of Financial Policy with the U.S. Department of Energy, where her responsibilities included management, internal review, and financial development and planning. From 2006 to 2009, Hyland was the Director of Financial Management for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Her credentials include leadership roles in finance and accounting for the International Trade Administration, and the U.S. Department of State in Washington, Tokyo and Kiev.

Hyland earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico, and is fluent in Spanish.

Hyland is married to Jason Hyland, a Senior Foreign Service Officer who just completed an assignment as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Canberra. They have served together in Japan, Australia, Ukraine and other posts. They have two children – a son who is a U.S. Army First Lieutenant currently serving in Afghanistan, and a daughter who is a student at an Australian university.