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For Immediate Release: Jul 30, 2015
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

ELONGATED LIMBO FOR CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD TOP STAFF

Leave Extended to 3 Months as Search for “Possible Misconduct” Plods On


Washington, DC — The turmoil and uncertainty plaguing the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) will continue as the period of administrative leave for its top two staff members just doubled to 3 months with no fixed end date, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group charged that Republican members of Congress are pushing an open-ended probe as part of an effort to paralyze the CSB.

In one of his first acts after declaring himself the “Interim Executive and Administrative Authority,” board member Richard Engler on June 16th placed the CSB’s entire executive staff, Managing Director
Daniel Horowitz and General Counsel Richard Loeb, on administrative leave “for an initial period of 45 days.” The reason was Engler’s declaration that he had ordered an internal investigation into “possible misconduct” identified months earlier by a House Committee and the EPA Inspector General in reports that targeted the former board chair.

In memos dated July 27th, the two were informed that their administrative leave had been “extended for an additional 45 days from July 31” – a period of three months with possibly more to come. Republican lawmakers, led by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), are asking CSB nominees to pledge their support for seeking removal of these two civil servants. At the same time, Inhofe, who chairs the Energy and Public Works Committee, is stalling confirmation of nominees to fill vacancies on the five-member CSB. These confirmations would end the current impasse between the two remaining board members who are at odds.

“Having read these reports it is clear there is no misconduct to be found which is why this is becoming the bureaucratic equivalent of waiting for Godot,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Mr. Inhofe and his allies have no track record of or interest in chemical safety. Their agenda is to cripple this investigatory board and keep it in a state of paralysis for that is the unmistakable upshot of their actions.”

PEER contends that Engler is a witting pawn in this strategy in return for support in retaining control of this small but troubled agency. Adding to the oddness of the situation is the strange bedfellow alliance between conservative Republicans and Engler, an avowed Marxist who has advocated nationalization of energy companies and worker control of factories, including their ability to “to suspend managers.”

“Ironically, once Engler obtained the slightest bit of power he acted like a Stalinist rather than a Marxist,” continued Ruch, noting that the two suspended staff have been associated with the former CSB chair, Rafael Moure-Eraso who resigned in March under White House pressure before his nominated successor was confirmed. “Civil servants should not be punished or suspended for following the lawful orders of presidential appointees. The lynch mob forming here is a disturbing retreat to a spoils system.”

In extending their administrative leave, Engler has now ordered Horowitz and Loeb not to communicate with or answer questions from the other remaining Board member, Manuel (Manny) Ehrlich. Horowitz is also directed to identify the source for any CSB materials he has seen since June 16th.

Meanwhile without public discussion, Engler has let a $40,000 contract to a Chevy Chase public relations firm. This is just the latest in a spate of Engler-spawned contracts with law and consultant firms answerable only to him.

“These civil servants are caught in the middle of a petty power struggle that has no connection to the efficiency of government or faithful execution of official duties,” Ruch concluded.


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Examine latest extension of administrative leave

Compare the original leave notice

See Sen. Inhofe pressing CSB nominees to keep Horowitz and Loeb on leave

Revisit Engler coup d’état at CSB

View latest Engler PR contract

Look at other Engler contracts