WASHINGTON -- For more than 18 months, John H. Sununu has used workers who guard federal office buildings in New York to drive and escort him on business, political and personal errands in the New York and New Jersey area, according to government officials and documents.
The White House said yesterday that the assistance to Mr. Sununu, the White House chief of staff, was routine and authorized and had been made available to other senior officials.
But managers of the guard service in five other large cities said yesterday that their duties were mainly limited to guarding buildings and investigating crimes on federal property and that they had never escorted high-level officials on local visits.
A Washington spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which manages the guard service, said she could recall only one other instance in which such services were provided outside New York. In New York, she said, seven members of President Bush's Cabinet have received assistance from the guard service.
Mr. Sununu's office did not pay for the services. The spokeswoman said that was because the cost on each visit did not exceed the $500 minimum above which reimbursement is required.
Employees of the guard agency, the Federal Protective Service, shuttled Mr. Sununu to speeches, a New York Giants football game, a Manhattan commencement ceremony June 9 and a political fund-raiser June 12 in Peapack, N.J., a GSA spokeswoman said.
Mr. Sununu's access to assistance from the protective service, which he has used on at least 10 visits to New York, dates to the beginning of the Bush administration.
In response to questions, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said yesterday that the assistance provided to Mr. Sununu in New York was "consistent with the services the General Services Administration provides senior federal officials."
Mr. Sununu said yesterday in a written statement, "The support of the General Services Administration is an available asset for many senior officials in this administration."
C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, ruled last week that Mr. Sununu's recent trip to New York to buy rare stamps and to make a political speech in New Jersey were part of an official trip. The chief of staff traveled from Washington to New York in his White House limousine and returned to the capital aboard a private jet.
According to confidential Federal Protective Service records and government officials, Mr. Sununu has been escorted by the agency's drivers and guards on at least nine other visits to New York or to suburbs in New Jersey since September 1989.
A former GSA employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the escorts consisted of one or two siren-equipped cars, a driver for Mr. Sununu and up to five other guards.
Authorizations for overtime work at the Federal Protective Service show that John Ulianko, director of the agency's New York office, worked beyond his customary hours several times to escort Mr. Sununu.
Reached by telephone Tuesday, Mr. Ulianko said that he thought it was "the total GSA policy to assist other government agencies" and that he had not sought legal authorization from his superiors in Washington.
He said that at least some of the escorts were authorized by higher GSA officials, but he declined to name them.
According to the former employee and to government records, Mr. Sununu has been escorted by the protective service on at least one trip that he has declared was made for political purposes, one that primarily involved personal business and eight that he has stated involved official government duties.
On the personal trip, on Jan. 7, 1990, Mr. Sununu was met at Newark International Airport by a Federal Protective Service automobile and a New Jersey State Police escort, which took him to Giants Stadium for a football game.
Mr. Sununu and other top administration officials are assigned government limousines for travel around Washington. Other officials expressed confusion yesterday as to why they turned to the protective service only in New York City.