Independent counsel urged in investigation of Herman Labor secretary accused of past influence peddling


WASHINGTON -- Senior Justice Department prosecutors are recommending that Attorney General Janet Reno seek appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations against Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, government sources said yesterday.

If Reno accepts their recommendation, which comes after a five-month preliminary investigation, she will petition the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals early next week to name the sixth special counsel to investigate the Clinton administration since it took office in January 1993.

The department's preliminary inquiry has looked into allegations that Herman, while working as a White House aide, accepted cash in exchange for using her influence to help business ventures.

She has denied the charges, publicly and vehemently.

Federal sources said that the inquiry by Justice's public integrity section, assisted by a team of FBI agents, has not concluded that Herman violated any laws.

Rather, the section's lawyers determined that the accusations cannot be dismissed without a grand jury taking sworn testimony and issuing subpoenas, neither of which is permissible legally until an outside counsel is appointed under the Ethics in Government Act.

Bert Brandenburg, Reno's chief spokesman, said he could not discuss the department's findings.

But the attorney general might announce as early as Monday whether she intends to seek an outside counsel, he said.

Other sources said that Reno would normally follow the recommendation of her top prosecutors in such a sensitive case.

Pub Date: 5/09/98

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