It was a rough week for Rafael Moure-Eraso.
Four days after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa dedicated a hearing to slamming his work as the head of the federal Chemical Safety Board, Moure-Eraso gathered his employees in a conference room at the board's K Street headquarters to address the awkward situation.
His first announcement: He wasn't resigning — a disappointment to some agency staff and alumni who pine for his ouster.
The second: He could admit he wasn't perfect — a statement that was met by some snickers. When it came time to open the floor for questions, none came.
According to CSB employees and outside critics, Moure-Eraso's four years as chairman have been far worse than "not perfect." Under his watch, staff members say they've been bullied to keep debate low, key investigators have fled for the door, and an agency that used to be fueled by cooperative energy has turned toxic. Employees describe feeling downright paranoid, speaking in secret in bathrooms or avoiding colleagues they thought might reflect poorly on them.
The agency's internal strife — combined with increased congressional scrutiny and a backlog of unfinished cases — has led some to label the chairman a failure and to push for him to step down early. But Moure-Eraso is not the first CSB director to struggle: The agency has had internal disputes since its creation, and some believe that any director of the board is being asked to do the impossible.