House Leaders Tap Investigator to Head House Page Program Inquiry

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner will meet within the week with the House independent investigator to determine the scope of the inquiry into shocking allegations of public oral sex and shoplifting by teenage House pages.

Meanwhile, the House Page Board that oversees the program held a closed-door meeting Thursday on Capitol Hill to discuss the incidents, less than a week after Pelosi called on the board to "undertake an immediate and thorough review" of supervision and security at the page dorm near the Capitol.

The accelerating investigation comes as the leaders face a heavy legislative schedule that includes trying to broker a deal between House Democrats and the White House over the remaining federal appropriations bills.

House Inspector General James Carroll is focusing his attention on events surrounding the recent dismissal of five House pages for varying types of misconduct, including a couple accused of engaging in multiple public sexual encounters. Two others allegedly were caught shoplifting at a mall near Washington. A fifth page was dismissed for anger problems.

The House Sergeant at Arms office confirmed a Page Board meeting was taking place Thursday, but staffers said they were not allowed to disclose its location. Other House staffers said they were unaware where the meeting was, or its purpose.

A spokesman for Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the board, said he did not know where his boss was at the time the session was taking place, and a spokesman for the House Clerk's office — which oversses the page program — did not return phone calls Thursday.

During an attempt to linger outside the suspected meeting room, two Capitol Police officers approached's reporter. One said they had received a phone call and told the reporter he had to leave the area.

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said he was not aware that a meeting was taking place, although he said the next meeting of the board would likely address the speaker's concerns outlined last week.

The page program is a revered institution on Capitol Hill. A few dozen high school juniors from around the country become paid workers for the House, delivering messages to and from the chamber floor and around the Capitol.

According to the House Web site, pages are paid a monthly gross salary of $1,616, and they are required to attend the Page School, and must live in the page dorms. The Senate also runs a page program.

Last week Republican Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite and Shelley Moore Capito resigned from the House Page Board over what they said was the board's lack of accountability for the new problems.

The resignations come only a few months after the House voted to change the board's makeup in the wake of the scandal that led to the resignation of Florida Rep. Mark Foley, who exchanged sexually explicit e-mails and text messages with some pages. The House added two positions to the board: the parent of a former page and a former page.

Brown-Waite, R-Fla., and Capito, R-W.Va., met personally with Boehner on Tuesday.

Boehner met with Pelosi on Wednesday, and the two announced they were calling on the House inspector general — a non-patronage position regarded as one of the most independent in Congress — to investigate the program.

"Today we agreed to direct the House inspector general to conduct an independent investigation into recent allegations surrounding the House Page Program," Boehner and Pelosi said. "We expect the inspector general to gather the facts and recommend the appropriate and necessary corrective actions to be taken by the House.

"We will also work together to select a highly regarded, independent entity to conduct a thorough review of the page program's organization and operation and make recommendations concerning its long-term future."

Capito issued a brief statement of approval of Boehner and Pelosi's announcement.

"A program designed for young people truly deserves such a bipartisan — even nonpartisan — approach," she said.