Luxembourg ambassador leaves embassy in shambles, then resigns

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State Department officials are mopping up after an international crisis, this time in tiny Luxembourg.

The now-former ambassador to the country, a political appointee of the Obama Administration, Cynthia Stroum, abruptly resigned in January, leaving the embassy “in a state of dysfunction” and “unable to carry out its duties after her recent exit,” according to a State Department report.

Despite having no qualifications for the job, politically-connected Stroum was given the coveted post.

Stroum, the heir to a Seattle auto-parts fortune, was a major bundler for Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, raising over $500,000. Despite having no qualifications whatsoever, she was given the coveted assignment as the ambassador to one of the world’s smallest and wealthiest nations.

The report, prepared by the U.S. State Department Inspector General, based on a visit during late October through early November, said that morale was so bad at the embassy, at least four senior staff members quit or applied for openings in Afghanistan and Iraq, just to get out quickly.

“Those who have questioned or challenged some of the Ambassador’s actions state that they have paid a heavy price in the form of verbal abuse and been threatened with dismissal,” according to the IG.

The report said that “The bulk of the mission’s internal problems are linked to her leadership deficiencies, the most damaging of which is an abusive management style.”  Embassy employees described her as “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating, which has resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy and uncertain work environment.”

Even before Stroum arrived, she exhausted an embassy employee over a six-week search for a temporary residence. More than two hundred homes were visited, and only four of those met her specific requirements. Stroum rejected all four.

Embassy staff said that they had “no expectation of privacy” in their emails or phone calls. When Stroum arrived, she announced that “her appointment letter from the President gave her the right to read any e-mail message that originated at Embassy Luxembourg.”

The report said that Stroum spent too much of her official time working on renovating the ambassador’s official residence, including the materials used in the bathrooms. The report added “”Normally, all such changes are approved by the (Overseas Buildings Operation) Office of Residential Design and Cultural Heritage and not by the occupant at the time. There appears to be some conflicting guidance on how much the Ambassador can be involved in this project.”

She also ordered a new queen-sized bed because she was unhappy with the king-sized one that was already there. She submitted a voucher twice for the expenditure, which the IG said was an improper use of funds because the bed size was a “personal choice.”

Stroum also used excess embassy funds to make a $3,400 purchase of expensive European wines right before the end of the year, despite written State Department rules stating “in no case, is the post authorized to use excess year-end funds to purchase wine.” Rules also mandated that all wine purchased were to be from American wineries.

Stroum and an assistant also flied to Switzerland at taxpayers’ expense to hire a chef, despite rules requiring all hires to be from the local area.

A website, popular among foreign service workers called Diplopundit, called the report “The Horror Report of the Year

The report concluded that the embassy “has underperformed for the entirety of the current ambassador’s tenure” and that “it plays no significant role in policy advocacy or reporting, though developments in Luxembourg are certainly of interest to Washington clients and other US missions in the NATO and EU communities.” After their visit, State Department investigators recommended bringing in doctors to the embassy, to “evaluate morale and stress levels of staff.”

Upon resigning her one-year stint, Stroum said she was leaving to spend more time with her family.

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Comment (1)
  1. JoAnn Blake says:

    A few months ago, Jill said she’s like to be an ambassador (preferably to a South American country). She said there are no qualifications for ambassador jobs, just having connections and money. That should be changed!!

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