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Printing Office Head Repays Discretionary Fund

December 3, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Public Printer Robert W. Houk says he was acting in good faith when he spent money from a discretionary fund on questionable items, but he has paid the government back $3,145 because others might see the matter differently.

Houk took the action Monday after The Washington Post reported that the inspector general of the Government Printing Office, which he heads, had questioned expenditures for such things as Christmas gifts, tickets to the Kennedy Center, travel for his wife and T-shirts for agency employees.

Houk’s response was reported by a GPO official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Houk and other GPO officials did not return a reporter’s telephone calls about the issue. They were said to be in meetings much of the day. Nancy Guiden, a spokeswoman for the agency, declined comment.

The GPO source said Houk repaid the money after a review, conducted at his request, by the agency’s ethics officer to determine what items might possibly be considered inappropriate expenditure of public funds.

In a letter to the congressional Joint Committee on Printing, Houk said he had authorized the expenditures in good faith, believing them to be in his discretion to determine expenses in connection with his responsibilities.

But he said he had come to realize that others might view some of the expenditures as not within his discretion.

The Post reported that GPO Inspector General Lewis L. Small questioned $5,193 of the $6,854 that Houk spent from the agency’s ″representation and reception fund″ between April 1990 and August 1991.

The newspaper said a draft report prepared by the inspector general questioned 24 expenses that Houk charged to the fund. They included lunches, membership fees in three organizations, $279 for Kennedy Center tickets, $526 for Christmas gifts, $175 for ″a society dinner″ and T-shirts for GPO workers to participate in a ″Federal Fitness Day.″

Houk, 64, a printer from Shelby, Ohio, took over the 5,000-employee GPO in March 1990 as a Bush administration appointee.

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