Kucinich Push for Committee Spot Foiled by Race Issues in His Own Office?

Reports of racial tension and personnel management issues within his office may have ended Dennis Kucinich's run for the top Democratic spot on the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

According to a story on Politico Monday, 14 Democrats have signed a letter backing Edolphus Towns, the current committee chairman, for the ranking member slot in the 112th Congress when Republicans take control of the House.

As PJM reported, tensions exploded in Kucinich's office between his staff director Jaron Bourke and 35-year staffer Jean Gosa, who is African-American. According to sources familiar with the situation, when word of the dispute got to Towns he stepped in to attempt to mediate the situation.

PJM has learned that Gosa was placed on administrative leave by Towns in May, pending an independent investigation. Her last full day at work was May 20 of this year. Shortly thereafter, Bourke filed a complaint against Gosa. At that point, sources say, the Office of the House Legislative Counsel was called in and advised Gosa remain on paid leave until the independent investigation was complete. It is now November, and Gosa remains on paid leave per their advice.

PJM attempted to contact the Office of the House Legislative Counsel for comment and was told they could not help us, would not help us, and that there was no press contact within the office. The staffer refused to give this reporter her name. Sources conversant with the case say the Office of the House Legislative Counsel generally errs on the side of employees, and that the goal of both the office and Towns was to resolve the situation as fairly as possible.

According to a September 10 story in the Huffington Post, Gosa had complained repeatedly about the atmosphere within the office -- using words like “plantation, slave, and overseer.” Her complaints were backed up by former staffer and current Huffington Post blogger Noura Erakat.

PJM attempted to contact Rep. Kucinich's office for comment and was first told by Kucinich spokesman Nathan White that he would not comment on the story. This reporter was then left a voicemail stating that "all personnel decisions are ultimately the responsibility of the chairman."