WASHINGTON – In a blistering report, Republican lawmakers on Sunday sharply criticized Labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez over what they said was a questionable deal he brokered while serving as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The 63-page report, issued after months of investigation, is certain to provide fodder for Republicans seeking to challenge Perez at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.
The GOP lawmakers accuse Perez of misusing his power last year to persuade the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a housing discrimination case before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Justice Department agreed not to intervene in two whistleblower cases against St. Paul that could have won up to $200 million for taxpayers.
Perez has defended his reason for wanting St. Paul to drop its case, telling investigators that he feared an adverse ruling from the Supreme Court would jeopardize the government’s use of statistics to win housing discrimination cases. The Justice Department also says Perez got proper clearance and made the deal in the best interests of the nation.
But Republicans say the deal was dubious, that Perez misled senior officials about his intentions, and that he tried to cover up the true reason for his decision not to intervene in the whistleblower cases.
“This offer was inappropriate and potentially violated Perez’s duty of loyalty to his client, the United States,” said the report from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, California Rep. Darrell Issa and Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte.
Issa is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, while Goodlatte heads the House Judiciary Committee. Grassley is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Top Democrats on the House Oversight Committee issued their own report on the investigation Sunday, writing that Perez “acted professionally to advance the interests of civil rights and effectively combat the scourge of housing discrimination.”
The Justice Department also defended Perez in a statement, saying litigation decisions made by the department “were in the best interests of the United States and were consistent with the department’s legal, ethical and professional responsibility obligations.”
Boy likely dead after fall into crevasse
FAIRBANKS, Alaska – A 9-year-old boy on a snowmobile is feared dead after falling an estimated 200 feet into a crevasse on an Alaska glacier.
Climbers descended into the hole and spotted the snowmobile driven by Shjon Brown, of Fairbanks.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that the boy was with his father Saturday riding in the Hoodoo Mountains off the Richardson Highway between Delta Junction and Glennallen.
They were about five miles northwest of the Arctic Man Classic, a race involving snowmobiles and skiers or snowboarders.
The boy was riding with his father and others at about 3:30 p.m. and his father took a break to watch from a hillside.
He told troopers that Shjon, pronounced Shawn, rode around a small mound and did not reappear. His father went to investigate and saw the crevasse.
The hole was reported as a “moulin,” a hole formed when water of the glacier surface erodes the ice.
Disneyland closes rides after citations
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Three rides at Disneyland, including the famous Space Mountain roller coaster, were temporarily closed over the weekend as the company reviewed its employee safety protocols after citations from state regulators.
The citations were received Friday from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, according to Disneyland Resorts spokeswoman Suzi Brown.
The closures Saturday of Space Mountain, the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Soarin’ Over California were voluntary and were made out of an abundance of caution, Brown said Sunday.
The citations were related to an incident in November when a contracted worker was injured while performing maintenance on the exterior of the Space Mountain attraction.
The Matterhorn reopened Sunday. Brown said Sunday it is unclear how long the other two rides will remain closed.
Yosemite tour bus crash leaves 16 injured
SAN FRANCISCO – A tour bus carrying visitors from Yosemite National Park was traveling at an unsafe speed when the driver lost control and crashed on a mountain road, leaving 16 people injured, the California Highway Patrol said Sunday.
The bus was about six miles outside of the south entrance of the park when it went off Highway 41, a winding mountain road, when it crashed about 6 p.m. Saturday. It came to a stop when it hit a tree, CHP Officer Scott Jobinger said.
Fifteen passengers and a tour guide suffered minor to moderate injuries.
“At this point the cause was the bus was traveling at unsafe speed and went off the road,” Jobinger said. He said the accident remained under investigation to determine if other factors played a role.
The 15 injured passengers, described as mostly elderly, and a tour guide were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
The bus driver, identified as Changfeng Liu, 49, of Fremont, Calif., was the only person on the bus who was not hurt. He has not been arrested, and alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash.