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Buchanan's expenses distorted, lawyer says

Luis Fábregas
| Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010

A federal report critical of former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan's travel expenses contains falsehoods and makes incorrect assumptions, said a lawyer representing Buchanan.

Attorney Timothy K. Lewis said Buchanan "vehemently denies" several aspects of the report issued last week by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General.

The report said Buchanan regularly exceeded government-approved rates for hotels. Federal investigators said Buchanan submitted 36 of 68 travel vouchers that exceeded government-approved rates. The vouchers, for travel that occurred from 2007 to 2009, went over approved limits by $4,221.

"The Inspector General's Office went to considerable lengths to distort some answers Ms. Buchanan provided and to ignore others," Lewis wrote in a letter to the Tribune-Review. "The report is, as it pertains to her, an injustice unbefitting the office that issued it."

Lewis, a former federal appeals judge, said Saturday Buchanan will seek a meeting with the inspector general as well as a public apology.

"If she doesn't get that, we'll consider what other steps we can take," Lewis said. "This has been very personally and professionally damaging to her."

He said he has known Buchanan for more than 20 years and, despite public disagreements with her decisions as a prosecutor, the inaccuracies and distortions in the report and the subsequent media coverage compelled him to represent her.

Lewis said a particularly "hurtful claim" and "outrageous suggestion" in the report stated that Buchanan blamed her secretary for her own mistakes. He said Buchanan never told investigators that she blamed her secretary for any deficiencies outlined in the report.

"To the contrary, Ms. Buchanan unequivocally advised the Inspector General's Office that she alone bore full responsibility for any errors, whether they were errors in judgment or clerical oversights," he said.

Lewis disputed findings about a trip Buchanan made to Tucson in 2008. The report stated Buchanan went to a conference two days before it started and stayed at a resort hotel. He called false the suggestion that Buchanan was living large on taxpayer's dime by arriving before the conference started. Buchanan arrived in Tucson on Friday, July 11 and spoke July 12 and 13 at a meeting of the National District Attorneys Association. She flew home on Monday.

Buchanan, 47, of Fox Chapel could not be reached yesterday. She stepped down from her post last year and unsuccessfully sought a Republican nomination for Congress.

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