By: Editorial Staff
THE FORMER DIRECTOR of the White House travel office has been acquitted of charges he embezzled $68,000 from fees paid by news media traveling with the president.
Billy R. Dale, who had worked in the travel office for 31 years, was among those fired by the administration in May 1993 for alleged mismanagement of office funds.
Five of the seven fired staffers later were offered new jobs. The ensuing furor over their dismissal was fueled when it came to light that a cousin of the president had spurred the complaints in an effort to get the business for her travel company.
Dale admitted that his method of financial bookkeeping ? depositing funds in his personal account to conceal the high cost of trips from complaining news media ? was unorthodox and unwise, but not illegal since he did not spend any of the money on himself.
The money reportedly included refunds from telephone and bus companies that Dale kept off the books in order to put it toward the cost of future trips.
Dale maintained that a detailed logbook, accounting for the money, has been missing since April 1993, when the president’s cousin went to work in the travel office.
Reporters from ABC, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times were called as character witnesses for Dale during the trial.
President Clinton has been harshly criticized for his handling of the matter, and some reports have cited the controversy as a factor in the suicide of White House aide Vincent W. Foster Jr.
“I think it’s clear that there were some problems in the way the travel office was run,” Clinton said, “but there were also clearly some serious problems in the way it was handled by the White House.”
The president said he was “sorry about what Mr. Dale had to go through” and he wished him well.
In an interview with the Washington Post following the verdict, Dale said he was bitter and hurt and would not accept Clinton’s apology, offering his services to any Republican candidate running against Clinton.
When the Callaway (Mo.) Courier went daily in June, it created a competitive situation with the daily Fulton (Mo.) Sun, which it eventually bought. The Courier has now reverted to a weekly, while the Sun remains a daily.