FDA Media Relations Department Hiring Practices Under Investigation
The FDA’s new Director of Web Communications, Carl Chitwood, has abruptly resigned after an alleged meeting with the agency’s IG focusing on possible illegal practices by Chitwood in the hiring of a former colleague for a post at the FDA he may not have been qualified for, we’ve just learned from sources at the FDA.
Chitwood’s boss, Associate Commissioner for External Affairs Beth Martino, sent staffers an email Feb. 10 saying Chitwood had resigned “effective immediately” and that she’d be taking on his duties “for now.”
As we recently blogged, Martino has seven years work experience, none of it at FDA until she was named to her post. She has worked with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the past, and current and former FDAers speculate that’s how she got the FDA job. Arguably, there were many other internal (and probably external) candidates who claimed a much stronger pedigree for the Associate Commissioner slot.
Earlier Chitwood discounted at least part of a media report detailing the purge in Martino’s media department, “Everything [that article] said about my actions was completely and totally inaccurate.” In the article Chitwood is accused of forcing out his predecessor, Donna Avallone, 62 and a career FDA employee. Avallone has more than 15 years Internet and Intranet experience, and won the 2003 Federal Emergency Management Association’s Director’s Award for a redesign of the FEMA web site. Avallone remains at the FDA but in a lesser capacity, allegedly orchestrated by Chitwood.
Now we hear from some former FDAers that Martino is “right in the thick of the IG inquiry” because she personally approved of Chitwood’s newest hire, an alleged friend of Chitwood’s named Stephen Benton, was slated to start Feb. 28th. The IG has allegedly recommended that Benton’s employment offer be withdrawn after meeting with Chitwood and then Martino. Chitwood resigned after that meeting, sources at the agency tell us.
Benton worked with Chitwood at the National Park Service, but appears to be unqualified for the job.
According to our sources inside the FDA, Chitwood and Martino knew Benton has no Web experience and was selected with no interview process. Martino also allegedly knew that two other candidates for the most recent announcement who have Web experience and college degrees were not interviewed while Benton has no college degree and is a friend of Chitwood’s.
While our sources inside the FDA tell us Martino may be implicated in the investigation, it is unclear if the investigation will continue and focus on her.
Martino did not return a call for comment.
Previous posts on this topic: