Internal emails among top staffers of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reveal some of the frantic activity in the hours just before and after the May 30 resignation of former Secretary Eric Shinseki. The News4 I-Team obtained the emails via the Freedom of Information Act.
Minutes after handing his resignation to President Barack Obama, Shinseki forwarded to his staff some of the supportive emails he’d recently received, including a missive from a doctor at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Other emails, shared among top VA public affairs officials two hours before Shinseki’s resignation, show the evolution of an agency statement about “fixes” being made amid recent controversies. In the emails, an agency staffer adjusts language about the cancellation of executive bonus pay. The adjustment specifies that executive bonuses would only be canceled through the end of Fiscal Year 2014, or Sept. 30, rather than canceled altogether.
In other emails, Veterans Affairs staffers seek information from one another about the location of television cameras and reporters during a morning speech by Shinseki, just before his announced resignation.
In another exchange, White House personnel official Jonathan McBride sends an email to several nominees awaiting Senate confirmation to agency posts. His message, which addresses the nominees as “friends,” tells them to “hang in there.” McBride also said, “The President and the entire Administration remain committed to getting you in place as quickly as possible.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz, in a statement to the News4 I-Team, said, “These messages from Jonathan are updates that are sent very regularly.”
In a separate batch of emails obtained by the News4 I-Team, a federal agency staffer expresses frustration about a request for an advanced copy of a speech, hours before Shinseki’s retirement. He uses profane language about the request, in an email to a Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman.
Requests for comment about the profane email were not immediately returned.