Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rep. Rob Woodall asks CDC about investigation of million$ awarded to tainted Chicago nonprofit, CDC exec who moonlighted as the group's treasurer

Two and a half years ago, the office of Health and Human Services Inspector General Dan Levinson instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate what happened to millions of tax dollars the agency awarded to a tainted Chicago nonprofit and the role of a career CDC employee who moonlighted as the group's Corporate Treasurer.

As Sidebar readers know, the nonprofit was the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), a politically-connected, high-profile, now-defunct FEMA member organization that since November 2006 has been the subject of dozens of exposes and reportedly is under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General for the possible misappropriation of $9 million in federal and state funds.

And the Dubuque Telegraph Herald recently reported that in June 2007, SALF was anticipating $10 million in funding sponsored by a former U.S. Senator named Barack Obama. 

So what kind of investigation did the CDC conduct?

The agency ignored my questions, but thanks to my congressman Rob Woodall, the public may get an answer to that question.

Per an October 11, 2010 article in The Hill, Levinson was asked to investigate $3.3 million the CDC handed SALF -- click here for the breakdown -- and "the relationship between the nonprofit and CDC Deputy Director Douglas Browne, who served as the nonprofit's corporate treasurer from 2004 to 2009."

Via the minutes of the January 26, 2007 meeting of SALF's corporate board -- note that the meeting took place after ABC7 Chicago had aired three scorching I-Team exposes of SALF:


"Mullins" is Rita Mullins, former mayor of Palatine, IL and SALF's second-in-command. "Spizzirri" is SALF founder/president Carol J. Spizzirri, reportedly now living in a trailer park near Carlsbad, CA. (Click here for a bunch of photos of the two SALF gals hanging out with prominent public officials.)

In a November 8, 2010 letter, Levinson's office punted the SALF mess "to CDC for further review, and appropriate administrative action as this matter appears to be more appropriately addressed through CDC's administrative review process."

A couple of years later, I tried to find out what kind of "administrative review" the CDC had conducted.

Sherri A. Berger MPHS (via her CDC bio)
In a June 5, 2012 one-paragraph letter, here's what CDC Chief Operating Officer Sherri A. Berger wrote me:
At this time, the agency has completed its review of this matter and intends no further action.
I wrote back and asked for specifics, but never received a reply.

In recent years, my congressman Rob Woodall (GA-7th District) has helped me to obtain related information from CDC director Thomas Frieden MD, who, like Ms. Berger, has expressed zero interest in what happened to the millions of tax dollars his agency awarded to SALF and Browne's role as the group's treasurer -- click here and here.

So last month I asked legislative aide Chase Murray in Rep. Woodall's office if the congressman would ask Ms. Berger to provide details about the alleged investigation.

Here's the result, including copies of the correspondence discussed above -- click here to download a pdf.

So will the CDC give straight answers to a member of Congress? To find out, keep reading The Sidebar.