WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to serve in key roles:

  • James O’Brien, Nominee for Coordinator for Sanctions Policy with the rank of Ambassador, Department of State
  • Michael Kubayanda, Nominee for Commissioner, Postal Regulatory Commission
  • Elizabeth de León Bhargava, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Parisa Salehi, Nominee for Inspector General, Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Brian Tomney, Nominee for Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency
  • Ben Wagner, Nominee for Inspector General, Tennessee Valley Authority 
  • John Putnam, Nominee for General Counsel, Department of Transportation

James O’Brien, Nominee for Coordinator for Sanctions Policy with the rank of Ambassador, Department of State
James O’Brien is currently Principal and Vice Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, an international advisory firm. He is a former career employee of the State Department and recipient of numerous performance awards, and has previously served two U.S. administrations as a special Presidential envoy. As the first Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs between 2015 and 2017, he helped establish the office and worked for the safe return of one hundred American citizens. From 1989 to 2001, he served as Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Principal Deputy Director of Policy Planning, and Presidential Envoy for the Balkans. 

Over the course of his career at the State Department, he has led a large and successful sanctions program and advised on a range of issues, including peace negotiations in Europe, scientific and environmental agreements, and initiatives to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for war crimes. O’Brien has also negotiated agreements protecting intellectual property rights for scientific cooperation with China, promoted environmentally sound international trade regulations for hazardous and recyclable materials, and worked to make public-private partnerships and corporate social responsibility an important element in American foreign policy. O’Brien earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.A. degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a B.A. from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Michael Kubayanda, Nominee for Commissioner, Postal Regulatory Commission
President Biden designated Michael Kubayanda chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission in January 2021. Chairman Kubayanda joined the Commission in January 2019, and served as its vice chairman from August 2019 through the end of 2020. Prior to joining the Commission, Chairman Kubayanda served as a board member and privacy officer for a digital health startup offering cloud solutions for medical practices in the United States and emerging markets.

He previously worked in multiple roles with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Postal Service, ending as Director of Government Relations. There, he worked with OIG officials to support the work of inspectors general in data analytics, and oversaw research addressing economic regulation, privacy, knowledge management, and innovation. Prior to his time at the OIG, he served as counsel to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chairman Kubayanda holds degrees from Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and the Ohio State University. He also studied at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.

Elizabeth De León Bhargava, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Elizabeth de León Bhargava has served as an executive in the public sector for more than 20 years. Most recently, as New York State Deputy Secretary for Labor & Workforce, the first Latina to hold this position, she was responsible for labor and workforce policy and operations, impacting more than 9.6 million working Americans. Elizabeth managed a portfolio of agencies operating with total budgets of over $5 billion and more than 5,000 employees with the responsibility of regulating public- and private-sector labor and workforce matters. Her leadership enabled the growth of a diverse, inclusive, and talented workforce, including more than 170,000 State workers. In addition, Elizabeth led the optimization of multibillion-dollar safety net systems that help businesses stay productive and provide critical benefits to workers. Notably, she was integral in securing New York’s historic minimum hourly wage increase to $15, lifting the earnings of about a quarter of the state’s total workforce and resulting in $15.7 billion of direct economic gains. Elizabeth also led the establishment of New York’s Paid Family Leave program.

Previously, as a senior advisor to the Speaker of the New York City Council, Elizabeth directed activities of the Council, including a team of more than 300 and a budget in excess of $55 million. As Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services, she supervised the largest business improvement district network in the country, with annual investment of more than $100 million. Prior to that, on behalf of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, Elizabeth led investigations and prosecutions ensuring the preservation of civil rights and affordable housing, protecting survivors of human trafficking, and supporting communities impacted by immigration fraud. A graduate of Binghamton University and the Buffalo University School of Law, Elizabeth resides in New York City with her husband.

Parisa Salehi, Nominee for Inspector General, Export-Import Bank of the United States
Parisa Salehi is currently serving as the Chief of Staff at the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of State. There, she provides executive leadership by leading a global workforce whose mission is to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for Global Media programs and operations. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State, Ms. Salehi served at the U.S. Agency for International Development OIG where she was responsible for coordinating all the operational activities for the OIG. Before joining USAID, Ms. Salehi was the Acting Inspector General of the Export Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), a government corporation with the mission of creating American jobs by providing financing to US exporters. In this role she provided overall direction to teams of auditors, investigators, and inspectors responsible for improving the programs and operations of EXIM Bank. Before becoming the Acting Inspector General, Ms. Salehi served as Counsel to the Inspector General at EXIM. Before joining EXIM Bank, Ms. Salehi served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for nearly five years.

Ms. Salehi has also worked as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law. Ms. Salehi started her career as an attorney in the District of Columbia working for prominent and large law firms, specializing in financial industry and white-collar criminal investigations, prior to joining the Federal Government. Ms. Salehi holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies from university of Oregon and as well as a law degree, from Howard University School of Law. Ms. Salehi is a member of both District of Columbia bar as well as Arizona state bar.  She resides in Washington DC.

Brian Tomney, Nominee for Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency
Brian M. Tomney serves as the Head of the Office of Corporate Investigations at Capital One, an American bank holding company. In this role, Tomney leads a team of researchers and investigators that conducts independent investigations into allegations of internal fraud and unethical business practices. Tomney previously served as the Chief of Staff to the company’s Chief Compliance and Chief Ethics Officer and the Senior Vice President for Operational Risk and Oversight. He also led the governance and independent testing functions in the Global Credit Card Compliance organization. Prior to joining Capital One, Tomney served in a variety of roles within the U.S. Department of Justice from 2006 to 2017, including: Associate Deputy Attorney General (2016-17); Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General (2015); Counsel for Rule of Law (2009-14); and as a Trial Attorney in the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Criminal Division (2006-09). A native of Massachusetts, Tomney’s public service career began in 1990 as a career paramedic/firefighter serving the City of Portland, Maine until 2003.   

Tomney received his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Maine School of Law and his B.S., summa cum laude, from the University of New England. 

Ben Wagner, Nominee for the Inspector General, Tennessee Valley Authority 
Ben Wagner’s professional career with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) spanned 38 years of dedicated service. The majority of his career included 31 years of service to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at TVA. Prior to his retirement in 2017, he served in several senior executive positions in the TVA OIG including the role of Senior Advisor, Stakeholder Relations and Deputy Inspector General where he led the audits, evaluations, investigations, and administrative functions. In addition to these senior executive roles, Wagner held several leadership positions in the audits, evaluations, and administrative functions with the TVA OIG and was integral to the start-up of the office after it was established at TVA in 1985. 

Wagner has extensive experience in developing and managing a comprehensive risk-based auditing program. He has provided leadership in the areas of enterprise-wide risk management, fraud risk assessments, ethics and compliance, and organizational effectiveness assessments.  During his career, Wagner supported Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency initiatives and programs. In the prior 7 years before joining the TVA OIG, Wagner also held various management and staff positions in TVA, primarily in the nuclear power program. 

Wagner received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee.  While born in New Mexico, he has resided in the Tennessee Valley region for the majority of his life.

John Putnam, Nominee for General Counsel, Department of Transportation
John E. Putnam, of Boulder, Colorado, has served as the Deputy General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Acting General Counsel since January 2021. In this role, he works closely with the Department’s senior leadership and nearly 500 attorneys to manage legal and policy matters concerning all of the Department’s operating administrations. 

Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, John worked most of his career as a transportation, environment, and energy attorney in Denver and Washington, DC. He represented State departments of transportation, local governments, transportation agencies, and private entities in Colorado and nationwide on a range of transportation, energy, environmental issues. Most recently, John was the Director of Environmental Programs for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), where he was responsible for overseeing the air, water, waste, and environmental health and sustainability divisions. John worked closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Energy Office, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, and other agencies to develop Colorado’s Roadmap for Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, clean truck plans, oil and gas regulatory reform, critical infrastructure COVID-19 support, and other programs for the State of Colorado.


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