Oversight Committee Calls on Head of Safety Agency to Resign

"There is something rotten to its core, and it is you."

In no uncertain terms, Republicans and Democrats alike called on the head of a troubled government safety agency to step down amid charges that he used personal email for official business and retaliated against employees.

Members of the House Oversight Committee slammed the management practices of Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman of the Chemical Safety Board, and blasted him for his use of personal emails for official business—the same criticism the panel is leveling at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Until you leave this organization, these problems are going to persist. There is something rotten to its core, and it is you," said Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "I will do everything I can in conjunction with my ranking member to make this change sooner rather than later."

Moure-Eraso's term is up in June.

"I think you should be fired," Chaffetz added, "but have the decency to actually step down and move this agency forward."

Ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., also called on Moure-Eraso to step down, saying the CSB had "has gone off the rails."

CSB is an independent agency that investigates chemical accidents and issues recommendations, but has recently been hauled in front of Congress for internal management troubles and disfunction.

Moure-Eraso pushed back against charges, telling the committee that the "important core mission work of the CSB has proceeded expeditiously" and that the board has produced eight reports in the past nine months. He declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.

At particular issue on Wednesday was the use of personal email by Moure-Eraso and two top CSB executives, which continued after he told Congress that the practice had stopped. An EPA Inspector General's report found that Moure-Eraso, Counsel Richard Loeb and Managing Director Daniel Horowitz had used personal accounts to knowingly keep emails away from other CSB employees.

Patrick Sullivan, the EPA's assistant IG, told the committee that a subsequent document request found a personal email dated August 21, 2013, from Moure-Eraso, after the chairman had told Congress he had stopped the practice.

Rep. Trey Gowdy R-S.C., hammered Moure-Eraso on the use of personal emails and the timing of the chairman's statements, charging that Moure-Eraso had lied to the committee at a previous hearing. Chaffetz likewise tried to get the CSB chairman to specify when the practice had stopped, but he declined to do so.

Gowdy, head of the House special committee on the Benghazi attacks, and Chaffetz have vowed to investigate the use of personal emails by Clinton, so the CSB hearing offers a potential preview of how House Republicans will press the issue.

Moure-Eraso said he had ceased using his personal account and had turned over all concerned emails to federal servers. But Sullivan said that a request by the OIG for all three officials to sign a document asserting compliance had not been followed up on. (Moure-Eraso did send a letter on his compliance and said he had been told the OIG forms were voluntary, but Sullivan said that was insufficient.)

The committee also highlighted fresh allegations that CSB executives had retaliated against an employee last month involved in contracting an outside consulting firm that was providing management advice to the agency. The report found that CSB employees were frustrated by senior leadership and that disputes at the top hampered the agency's mission, building on previous morale complaints.

Moure-Eraso said there was evidence that the report by Vantage Human Resource Services had been doctored to make it more critical of senior leadership and worked to keep correspondence confidential. He has asked the EPA IG to look into the matter.

In response, the committee charges, the employee was demoted and Horowitz himself was assigned as the contracting officer. According to the committee, the employee in question was removed from the Vantage contract within minutes of the report being presented to the CSB and was demoted days later (the employee had also spoken to the committee that week).

"Retaliation is something we will not stand for on both sides of the aisle," said Cummings.