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Safety

Chemical Safety Board Moves To Fire Two Top Staff

Watchdog group sides with terminated managing director, prepares to challenge decision

by Jeff Johnson
November 24, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 47

Turmoil at the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board continues as CSB is poised to fire its top two staff members who have been on paid leave since June.

In a Nov. 16 letter, CSB member Kristen Kulinowski, a chemist, recommends terminating Daniel Horowitz, CSB managing director. His firing is called for because of misconduct and “conduct unbecoming a federal employee,” she writes in the letter to Horowitz, citing allegations made by CSB employees.

The letter was released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a watchdog group that is representing Horowitz, a 15-year CSB staffer. The board would not provide C&EN with details about the possible firing of Horowitz and Richard Loeb, CSB general counsel. Loeb and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

CSB Chair Vanessa Allen Sutherland will make the final decision regarding their terminations after mid-December.

Members of Congress have sought the firing of Horowitz and Loeb after lengthy investigations by an oversight committee and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General, which alleged that the two mismanaged the agency and retaliated against CSB employees. Lawmakers and the inspector general lodged similar criticisms against former CSB chair Rafael Moure-Eraso, which led to his forced resignation in March.

If Sutherland fires the two, she will be free to fill the positions. However, PEER argues that the allegations are groundless and is preparing to challenge them.

Meanwhile, CSB has not investigated a chemical accident since last February, its longest inactive period. Over this time, the U.S. has had some 19 chemically related industrial accidents with 16 fatalities, PEER says.

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Comments
JM Hatch (November 24, 2015 7:22 PM)
Can you advise who are the owners or primary funding agents of PEER? Cui Bono is a useful tool, and with the exception of Kullnowski, Horowitz and Kolb, the human parties in your story, all the other agents funding sources are already clear to me.
Jeff Johnson (November 30, 2015 11:06 AM)
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is a national nonprofit educational and legal support group for employees of government resource management and environmental protection agencies. Its annual budget of about $1 million comes mostly from small contributions from foundations and individuals as well as grants. The contributors appear to be mostly institutions with long-running concern for public employees and the environment.
Alan Cisar (December 2, 2015 2:56 PM)
It would be nice if this article contained some indication (perhaps a link to a previous story?) to the allegations against them and what evidence has been offered by each side. Without that all those of us who haven't been following this closely can see is a case of "she said, they said".

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