Advertisement

The Labor Department has ruled top officials of the...

By GREGORY GORDON

WASHINGTON -- The Labor Department has ruled top officials of the Environmental Protection Agency discriminated against outspoken employee Hugh Kaufman by harassing him with investigations to silence his public criticism.

The EPA promptly notified an administrative law judge Thursday that it would appeal this week's 'whistleblower' decision by the Labor Department's Employment Standards Administration.

Advertisement

The Labor Department finding directed EPA officials to refrain from preventing Kaufman from exercising his First Amendment rights, to expunge from agency files any references to 'inappropriate' behavior on his part, and to re-evaluate his latest performance appraisal discounting material gained from investigations.

Rep. James Florio, D-N.J., said in a statement that disclosure of the 'harassment tactics brings into further question EPA's commitment to enforcing the Superfund law.' The law provides money for cleanup of toxic wastes and protects employees who reveal information about waste sites.

Before taking office, President Reagan pledged his administration would protect 'whistleblowers' -- federal employees who risk their jobs to publicly criticize agency abuses.

Kaufman filed a complaint in July alleging he had been harassed with an inspector general's investigation of his personal use of EPA telephones and of his visit to a citizen's group while on sick leave.

Advertisement

Kaufman also charged that EPA officials went on a 'fishing expedition' by putting him and his wifeunder surveillance in an effort to discredit him.

Kaufman, who has been with the agency since its inception 11 years ago, was EPA's chief hazardous waste investigator in the mid-1970s and now is assistant to the director of the Hazardous Site Control Division. He asserts he is one of the agency's leading experts on the hazardous waste issue.

Kaufman said in a telephone interview that Freedom of Information documents disclosed EPA Inspector General Mathew Novick, agency general counsel Robert Perry and Assistant Administrator Rita Lavelle were responsible for the harassment. He said he believes Administrator Anne Gorsuch also was involved.

Kaufman said he learned of the surveillance on his wife because the files revealed that 'they didn't know the woman I was sleeping with in a motel in Pennsylvania that they followed me to was my wife. My wife kept her maiden name.'

Novick's office referred to the Justice Department criminal allegations that he was involved in payroll violations, and a week after the department cleared him, chief EPA spokesman Byron Nelson still was telling reporters he was under criminal investigation.

Kaufman said he obtained a letter from Novick to Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of a House subcommittee, saying Perry and Ms. Lavelle asked him last April to put Kaufman under 'domestic surveillance.'

Advertisement

He said based on the facts he had seen, the Labor Department findings were a 'conservative description' of the harassment. He said his attorneys would have an opportunity to cross-examine high-ranking EPA officials at the appeal hearing.

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement