NSF DOES NOT HAVE RIGHT TO THREATEN STATES OVER BACK TO BASICS MATH STANDARDS
From: "Mike McKeown" (by way of James
>From the Washington Fax website
Front page http://www.washington-fax.com/p1
February 26, 1998
Justice Department investigates possible
misconduct by NSF official
Science Committee also has questions about deputy director's
The Justice Department is investigating possible misconduct by a
high-ranking official at the National Science Foundation (NSF) after an
internal agency probe revealed federal conflict of interest laws may
According to a report from NSF's Office of the Inspector General (OIG),
an NSF "executive" broke federal conflict of interest laws when he
participated in the grant process for an organization with whom he was
also negotiating a prospective job. The report does not reveal the name
the organization involved.
That executive has been identified in other publications as Luther
Williams, NSF assistant director for education and human resources. The
story was first broken by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
An investigation by NSF Inspector General Linda Sundro shows the
official identified as Williams also accepted payments for speaking
engagements at a number of institutions that receive NSF funding, the
OIG report indicates. The report concludes that Luther's speeches were
substantially related to his employment duties at NSF.
The semiannual report, submitted to Congress late last year by the OIG,
first raised the possibility Williams may have acted inappropriately.
Williams' alleged actions violate both NSF regulations and federal law
and carry with them the possibility of criminal or civil liability. The
Department has refused comment on the case while it is under
Williams, a microbiologist, took the assistant director position at NSF
1990. According to the Washington Post, Williams, who reportedly earns
$125,900 annually, will retain his NSF position while the issue is
investigation. An NSF spokesman said the agency is not authorized to
release any additional information concerning the investigation or even
confirm that Williams is the subject of a Justice Department probe.
to reach Williams last week were unsuccessful.
In addition to providing research grants in areas such as math and
education, the department Williams oversees promotes science literacy
studies education reform.
Williams, whose department awarded more than $611 million in research
grants last year, has also attracted congressional scrutiny for some of
administrative actions. House Science Committee Chairman James
Sensenbrenner, R-WI, recently wrote to NSF Director Neal Lane
regarding statements made by Williams to the California State Board of
Education about the state's recently adopted mathematics standards.
Sensenbrenner maintains that a letter from Williams to the California
board included "what appears to be a not so veiled threat that
would lose federal funds because of its decision to adopt new
The Science Committee chairman points out that the nation's
education system authorizes states and local education entities to
decisions regarding how young people are schooled....State standards
must be respected."
"Language and tone such as that in Dr. Williams' letter may be
as an effort on the part of the federal government through the NSF
systemic programs to impose its view on segments of the California
school system. This is not acceptable," Sensenbrenner wrote.
Williams' letter to the California state board prompted Sensenbrenner
request that Lane submit to the House Science Committee a detailed
explanation of how NSF systemic program agreements with states, cities
and regions are made--including NSF criteria for awarding grants under
these programs. Sensenbrenner also asked Lane to submit all agency
documentation that contains science and math standards negotiations
states and any other entities that have competed for grants under the
systemic initiative. NSF has until February 27 to comply with the
--John B. Everton
Editor's note: A copy of the portion of the OIG report relating to
Involving Honoraria Payments referenced in this story is available on
web site at [http://www.washingtonfax.com/p1/docs/nsf/conflict.html].