When news surfaced in May 2013 that the State Department had approved an arrangement that allowed Huma Abedin, a top adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to take on work for private clients, officials at the department described it as nothing unusual.
But three months later, questions about the arrangement persist, and the department has declined to provide some basic information about Ms. Abedin’s situation and those of other State Department employees who may have been given similar status.
Ms. Abedin, 37, a confidante of Mrs. Clinton’s, was made a “special government employee” in June 2012. That allowed her to continue her employment at State but also work forTeneo, a consulting firm, founded in part by a former aide to President Bill Clinton, that has a number of corporate clients, including Coca-Cola. In addition, Ms. Abedin worked privately for the Clinton Foundation and for Mrs. Clinton personally.
The arrangement set off concern among some government watchdog groups and a senior Republican in Congress, who questioned whether a person in a sensitive State Department position should be working for clients in the private sector at the same time.
The State Department has declined to say what role Mrs. Clinton played in approving the arrangement.
Ms. Abedin has not disclosed how much she was paid by Teneo, the Clinton Foundation or Mrs. Clinton during this period. She resigned from State on Feb. 1.
Aides to Senator Charles E. Grassley, a Republican of Iowa who has led an inquiry into the matter, say they have faced obstacles in efforts to gather certain information about Ms. Abedin’s arrangement and about the rules the State Department applies in approving such arrangements.
The questions Mr. Grassley and his staff are still seeking answers to include: who in the department specifically authorized the arrangement for Ms. Abedin; who in the department was aware of her outside consulting activities; copies of contracts Ms. Abedin signed with private clients; and the amount she earned from those contracts.
As a general policy, the Department of State does not disclose employee information of this nature.
One issue concerns the original intent of the law authorizing federal agencies to hire special government employees. Experts say the law was established to give agencies the flexibility, usually on a temporary basis, to draw on the skills of specialists in various fields who are unable or unwilling to leave their jobs and go to work for the government.
Mr. Grassley said in a letter to the State Department that Ms. Abedin’s area of expertise — “advising and participating in planning for the secretary’s schedule and travel” — did not appear to qualify her for the status of special government employee. Mr. Grassley also reiterated his original questions.
“Agencies should be transparent about their operations,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement to The Times.
“Basic information about a special category of employees who earn a government salary shouldn’t be a state secret. Disclosure of information builds accountability from the government to the taxpaying public. Agencies that lose sight of transparency also lose public trust.”
Mr. Grassley also sent other major agencies throughout the government letters asking them to explain the criteria they use to hire special government employees.
In a statement, Mr. Gerlach said: “Ms. Abedin was invaluable to the secretary and her entire operation, providing a breadth of broad-based and specific expertise from her years in the White House and at the department that was irreplaceable.”
Ms. Abedin, in a letter she wrote in response to Mr. Grassley’s inquiry, said she had sought the special status because she had recently given birth to her son and wanted to remain in New York while continuing to work for the department.
She also emphasized that she was scrupulous in keeping her private consulting work separate from her department duties.
Ms. Abedin also wrote that in her dealings with private clients, “I also was not asked, nor did I provide insights about the department, my work with the secretary, or any government information to which I may have had access.”
She said she had received approval from the department’s legal and human resources officials for the arrangement, but she did not provide specifics.
The news of the agreement that Ms. Abedin made with the State Department was reported at a time when her husband, Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat and a former congressman, was laying the groundwork for a candidacy for mayor of New York.
Ms. Abedin is now working for Mrs. Clinton in the former secretary’s transition office.