ExclusiveAlleged 'hit list' leads to top EPA officials

By GREGORY GORDON   |   March 20, 1983

WASHINGTON -- Aides to former Environmental Protection Agency :hief Anne Burford compiled a color-coded 'hit list' in late 1981 targeting 25 to 50 top agency managers for firing, EPA sources said Sunday.

Several sources who saw the list said a number of the Senior Executive Service officials named were demoted or given unwanted transfers to other cities last year, resulting in their dismissals or resignations. Many of those targeted were viewed as Democrats or strong environmentalists, they said.

David Tunderman, an EPA policy veteran, was ordered transfered to a job as a laboratory :hief although he said he had taken only a high school chemistry course. Tunderman, who quit EPA, now practices law in Salt Lake City.

Sheila Prindiville, who was deputy regional administrator in San Francisco, said she was told her job was being eliminated and was fired when she declined a transfer to Washington. Before she left, a new deputy chief was named.

A former enforcement division chief in EPA's Chicago office, Sandra Gardebring, was similarly fired when she refused to accept a transfer to Washington to a job she says had 'no particular responsibilities.'

All three said they had been told or heard rumors their names were on the 'hit list.'

Mrs. Burford resigned March 9 in the face of investigations of the EPA by six congressional subcommittees and the FBI.

Past and present EPA officials said they were told the list was largely compiled by James Sanderson, a Denver attorney and former close adviser to Mrs. Burford; W. Clifton Miller, a Coloradoan whom Sanderson reportedly helped get a job with the agency, and Mrs. Burford's :hief of staff, John Daniel.

Sanderson is under Justice Department investigation because of alleged conflicts of interest in his representation of industry legal clients while serving as an EPA consultant.

An agency lawyer said Miller, a special assistant to Mrs. Burford, 'prominently displayed' the hit list on a board in his office.

'It's all blatantly in violation of the civil service laws,' the official charged. 'They showed it to people!'

The attorney said Mrs. Burford's aides seemed to feel 'they had a mandate' to make major personnel changes despite civil service laws. 'It's naievete, lack of good sense,' the lawyer said.

Miller and Daniel, who still are in their EPA jobs, could not be reached for comment Sunday. Sanderson's Denver attorney, Paul Cooper, declined comment and said Sanderson was no longer responding to reporters' questions.

Nolan Clark, the agency's former No. 3 official, told United Press International he was informed of the 'hit list' rating more than 100 managers at the agency several weeks after he quit his post in September 1981.

Clark, who said he did not see the list, said he was told categories included those who 'must be fired,' those who should be transfered to other jobs, and those considered loyal to the administration.

Joseph Cannon, Clark's successor and still at EPA, said he saw the board. He characterized it as an 'organization chart where some people were clearly designated to be moved to different parts of the agency for one reason or the other.'

An EPA official who said he saw the list recalled each name was followed by one of three color codes: a brown dot for career bureaucrats who must be fired, a second color stating that the bureaucrat should be removed from his sensitive position, and a third color -- black or blue - for administration loyalists.

One former ranking EPA official at the agency described the list as a 'vicious' reflection of administration manipulation of career employees in an effort to institute ideological shifts sympathetic to the industries EPA regulates. Mrs. Burford's aides 'were playing hard ball, no doubt about it,' the official said.

Most of the agency's assistant administrators and Deputy Administrator John Hernandez were consulted about which of the SES employees -- top managers who are paid more than $50,000 a year -- should be reassigned with the intention of forcing their ouster, the officials alleged.

One former agency official estimated that between three and six managers in each major EPA division were given 'brown' codings, meaning they would be dismissed.

Disclosure of the list came after a House subcommittee revealed that other 'hit lists' targeting agency science advisers and lower-level career civil servants allegedly were authored by Louis Cordia, an official of EPA's Office of Federal Activities.

Cordia, a former official of the conservative Heritage Foundation, resigned his EPA post last week in the face of the disclosures. Agency officials, however, said the SES 'hit list' seemed to be a far more serious breach of personnel regulations because many of Cordia's efforts were not taken seriously by high EPA officials.

Sources said those targeted for dismissal included: Tunderman; Ms. Gardebring; Ms. Prindiville; Steven Schatzow, an official of EPA's office of water termed a 'miraculous survivor' by a former colleague; William Peterson, an attorney in the general counsel's office; James Reisa, a former toxics official who declined a transfer and quit; Roy Gamse, former deputy assistant administrator for planning and evaluation; Rick Tropp, a former aide to Cannon who Sanderson allegedly ordered fired; Paul Stolpman, head of the agency's air policy office who was shifted to another post, and Marilyn Bracken, a toxic chemical branch :hief.

Tunderman, formerly EPA's director of energy policy who joined the agency in the Carter years, was reassigned in December 1981 to head an agency laboratory in Cincinnati although he had only taken one chemistry course in his freshman year of college. He said in a telephone interview he felt 'blatantly unqualified,' and drew up a settlement under which he would be given four months to find a job in the private sector. He quit on May 1, 1982.

Ms. Gardebring, now director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, headed EPA's strongest enforcement office. She said when she was ordered transfered in December 1981 her boss, Chicago regional administrator Val Adamkus, appealed for six months to Mrs. Burford, Daniel and Perry. She said he was told she could not work as an attorney in Chicago, and finally, 'that there was no acceptable position for me in the region.' She was fired when she declined a transfer.

Ms. Prindiville said she left her job a year ago Sunday after EPA's San Francisco regional administrator, Sonia Crow, told her she wanted her to leave her post. Ms. Prindiville, now head of Virginia's Council on Environmental Quality, had served as acting regional administrator for a year before Ms. Crow took charge. She said that although Ms. Crow told her she planned to eliminate the deputy administrator's job, John Wise was named to that post before she was fired for declining a transfer.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more news from UPI.com
Related UPI Stories
share with facebook
share with twitter
Trending Stories