ARLINGTON, Va. — A former attorney for the American Forces Information Service has sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, alleging serious misconduct by Pentagon and Stars and Stripes officials and saying she was retaliated against for pursuing her legal duties connected to the America Supports You program.

In the letter, obtained by Stars and Stripes, former AFIS General Counsel Diane Beaver accuses Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications and public liaison, and acting Stripes publisher Max Lederer of violations regarding how America Supports You was funded and how money was spent.

"Ms. Barber and Mr. Lederer’s actions violate federal appropriations law and may violate ethics law, including the potential for violation of the conflict of interest criminal statutes," Beaver wrote. "At a minimum, there is an appearance of impropriety by these officials."

Barber also is the creator of America Supports You and head of American Forces Information Service, Stripes’ parent organization. "Instead of complying with Federal law and regulation, Ms. Barber violated the oath she took to comply with the law and did so with impunity to accomplish her personal objectives," Beaver wrote.

Barber declined to respond to Beaver’s allegations, said Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Greg Hicks.

Lederer said he had no reaction to the letter to McCaskill.

Beaver confirmed to Stripes that she wrote the April 22 letter and sent it to McCaskill’s office, but declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for McCaskill, D-Mo., would not say whether the office had received the letter, citing privacy concerns.

Formed in 2004, America Supports You has served as the umbrella organization for nonprofit groups that support U.S. troops.

In October, editors at Stripes learned that it had been used to transfer money to America Supports You.

The newspaper converted taxpayer money to nonappropriated funds, which are not allocated by Congress and have less strict spending restrictions.

Stripes editors said they were unaware of the extent of the partnership; the newspaper’s ombudsman wrote soon after that readers could infer from the situation that Stripes’ objectivity was in question.

Lederer said at the time that no efforts were made to hide the relationship, but in a Nov. 19 message to the staff, acknowledged there was "insufficient discussion" within Stripes and added that the relationship would end.

So far, defense officials and Stripes management have refused to say how much money was transferred to the paper for America Supports You expenses.

In her letter, Beaver specifically alleges that:

Barber circumvented the Federal Acquisitions Regulations and other fiscal laws by using Stripes as a conduit to fund America Supports You.

Lederer helped Barber issue contracts for America Supports You without legal reviews and other required procedures.

Contracts issued for America Supports You violated rules governing the use of nonappropriated funds, which require such money to be spent to benefit Stripes.

One sole-source contract went to a public relations firm headed by Susan Davis, a friend of Barber’s, without any competition or market analysis.

Lederer provided legal advice to Barber and former Stripes publisher Tom Kelsch even though he is not Stripes’ legal adviser.

Lederer failed to provide copies of contracts, legal reviews and other documents to Beaver when she asked for them.

Kelsch confirmed that he told Beaver that he went to Lederer for legal advice, noting Lederer is a former judge advocate general and was hired by Stripes to be its general counsel in Europe and is a member of the bar in both Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"He seems to be an ideal person for legal advice on such things because of his credentials," Kelsch said.

In her letter, Beaver wrote that she ultimately went to the Inspector General’s Office with her concerns, prompting former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dorrance Smith to request an audit into the matter.

Afterwards, she wrote, Barber and other officials retaliated against her, creating a working environment so "toxic," that she asked to be reassigned to a job that paid $20,000 less per year.

Beaver has filed a whistle-blower complaint against Barber and other officials, but she understands that it has not been acted upon pending the audits’ outcome, the letter said.

Defense officials and Stripes’ management have refused repeated queries on how much money was transferred to Stripes for America Supports You.

Stripes’ role administering contracts for America Supports You is expected to end when a new public relations contract is awarded this year.

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