Few political appointees are as well connected as Janet Rehnquist. A former White House staff member for the first President Bush, she's the daughter of Chief Justice William Rehnquist--whose Supreme Court ensured there would be a second President Bush. No surprise that 16 months ago, she got a job as inspector general at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department. But her connections may be wearing thin. The General Accounting Office (GAO) began an investigation in October into charges that she has mismanaged the office. Among the allegations: that she forced out a number of senior career staff members, improperly kept a gun in her office and ran up questionable travel bills. She is also under fire for delaying an audit of a Florida pension fund at the request of a top aide to Governor Jeb Bush.
Now, sources tell TIME, GAO investigators have discovered that documents potentially important to the inquiry have been shredded. The investigators are focusing on the possible destruction of notes, e-mails and memos written by top officials in Rehnquist's office. Rehnquist has denied that anything of significance was shredded, but the discovery prompted Rehnquist's general counsel to pen a Thanksgiving-week e-mail urging HHS staff to stop shredding.
The incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley, has been critical of Rehnquist. But fellow Republican member Orrin Hatch, for whom she once worked, has asked Grassley to be kept "up to speed" on the inquiry. Grassley has only increased the pressure, complaining to her White House sponsors that they need to take the matter seriously, sources say. Translation: Find her another job. --By Michael Weisskopf and Viveca Novak