WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden fired the government official responsible for maintenance and operation of the U.S. Capitol on Monday after a watchdog report accused him of multiple administrative and ethics violations.
Brett Blanton, the Architect of the Capitol, has been terminated, the White House said. Blanton’s dismissal came just hours after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he had lost confidence in Blanton and that he should resign immediately or be fired.
Blanton, who was appointed to the position by Donald Trump, faced bipartisan calls for his resignation after an inspector general’s report last fall concluded he and his family had used government vehicles for weekend trips and that he mispresented himself as a law enforcement official.
The report cited Blanton for “administrative, ethical and policy violations” and said the investigation found “evidence of criminal violations.”
Blanton was hauled before a congressional committee last week to answer questions about the findings. During the hearing, he also was widely criticized because he was not at the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, mob attack by Trump supporters.
The Architect of the Capitol is responsible for maintenance and operation of the U.S. Capitol and its expansive grounds and building complex. Blanton, a former U.S. Naval officer, is a civil engineer and previously worked as deputy vice president at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
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The inspector general's report, released last October, said Blanton “abused his authority, misused government property and wasted taxpayer money,” explaining that officials received a complaint from a private citizen about the misuse of an office vehicle in March 2021.
The office “found overwhelming evidence that Blanton and his family continually misused (government) vehicles intended for home-to-work use,” including his wife and adult daughter.
The report alleged, in one March 2021 incident, that a driver of a black Ford Explorer was driving “extremely reckless” in a parking garage and “swerving out of the garage” at an estimated 65 mph. The driver, later identified by the inspector general office as one of Blanton’s daughters, also allegedly “made obscene gestures” from the vehicle at a Walmart near Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.
The report also found that, during his tenure, Blanton should have driven an estimated 10,438 miles using the office’s vehicles. Instead, more than 29,000 miles were recorded over the period. The inspector general’s office found $13,926.56 in “net questioned costs.”
One of his daughters, Reilly Blanton, referred to using the office’s fuel as “free gas,” according to the report.
Blanton is also accused of misrepresenting himself as a law enforcement official. Additionally, officials found that his wife, Michelle Blanton, created multiple social media posts about tours of the Capitol, including one saying “All PATRIOTS accepted.”