WASHINGTON, DC, July 22, 2004—Citing its concern that the process of nominating a new Archivist of the United States “was undertaken outside both the letter and the spirit of the law,” the Society of American Archivists (SAA) today provided written testimony for the record in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearings on the appointment of Allen Weinstein to that position. Weinstein was nominated on April 8 to succeed John Carlin as head of the National Archives and Records Administration.
“Congress intended that filling the position of Archivist of the United States should involve an open process, with consultation with appropriate professional organizations that could speak from knowledge and experience concerning the qualifications of nominees,” the testimony says. “We believe … that the White House effectively removed John Carlin when it asked him for a letter of resignation in December 2003 after having already identified a replacement in the fall of that year. It is within the power of the President to remove the Archivist, but if he takes this action, the law calls for him to provide Congress with an explanation of his reasons for doing so. To date, no explanation has been provided,” the testimony continues.
“We don’t understand why this nomination needed to move so quickly that interested professional associations were unable to add their knowledgeable perspectives during the search. We would have strongly preferred that the nomination be postponed to allow the process to be followed as prescribed by law,” said SAA President Tim Ericson. “At a minimum we hope that the Senate Committee will begin working with interested professional associations to establish a more formal—and more accountable—procedure that can be used for future nominations.”
Although the SAA statement indicates an intent to “cooperate with Professor Weinstein and to work with him if he is appointed Archivist of the United States,” given the absence of due process the Society can neither support nor oppose his appointment.
The Society of American Archivists is a national professional organization representing more than 3,900 individual and institutional members. Its mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of its members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of the nation’s historic record.
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Society of American Archivists