[JURIST] New US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings [official bio] castigated senior departmental officials Friday over the controversial hiring of conservative commentator Armstrong Williams [Wikipedia profile] to plug the No Child Left Behind Act [official website]. Williams was investigated by the FCC in January [JURIST report] for his failure to disclose a $240,000 payment received from the Bush administration in connection with the promotion. Speaking in advance of the public relesase of a critical report on the episode by the Education Department's Inspector-General, Spellings stated that officials did not take proper care with taxplayer money and demonstrated "serious lapses in judgment." While not mentioning anyone specifically, Spellings appeared to blame her predecessor, Rod Paige [official bio]. Williams maintains that the agreement was legal, but he posted an apology [archived document] after the payment story broke, and President Bush has remarked that his cabinet "needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again." AP has more.
Saturday 9:37 AM ET – The Inspector-General's report focused on contract law and concluded that although the contract with Williams was not illegal or unethical as such, it was a "poor decision." Review the full text of the Review of Formation Issues Regarding the Department of Education's Fiscal Year 2003 Contract with Ketchum, Inc. for Media Relations Services [PDF].