WASHINGTON -- Environmental Protection Agency official Louis Cordia, said by congressional investigators to have compiled a 'hit list' of agency employees, resigned at the request of EPA Acting Administrator John Hernandez, Cordia said today.
Cordia also confirmed he is under investigation at the agency for allegations of tampering with agency records, a charge he denied, and said he did not compile hit lists of those at the EPA to be fired or demoted because of their liberal politics.
'It (the resignation) was requested by Hernandez,' Cordia said in a telephone interview. Since he was a political appointee, Cordia said, and 'since he requested it, I submitted it, effective immediately.'
Cordia said he was informed today the EPA's inspector general's office is examining allegations that he ordered the erasure of computerized data sought by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.
'I am innocent of any wrongdoing, but in the interest of the agency and administration I submitted my resignation,' said Cordia, a 28-year-old who before joining the EPA in its office of federal activities worked at the conservative Heritage Foundation and on the administration's EPA transition team.
As for tampering with records, 'The answer is a resounding, 'No,'' Cordia said, adding that the deputy director of the office 'will clear this matter up, undoubtedly.'
Cordia said he could not discuss documents given to a House subcommittee earlier, ones that have prompted the allegations of a 'hit list,' and said he expected to talk further with congressmen involved in the probe.
Although he said he could not talk about the documents, Cordia said that while on the EPA transition team and at the Heritage Foundation he helped work in four areas, one of them that included 'about 250 recommendations of candidates to serve President Reagan at EPA,' and another involving accumulating 'pro and con assessments of the performances of 600 to 700 EPA staff members and consultants.'
'My job at EPA did not relate to the work that I did during the transition and at the Heritage Foundation. I had no responsibility for EPA personnel matters apart from the employees in the office of federal activities,' where he was a special assistant, he said.
Cordia flatly said he 'never prepared' or sent others in the agency what might be termed a 'hit list' after his November 1981 start at the EPA.
Congressional investigators Monday said the 'hit list' was in Cordia's handwriting on Heritage Foundation stationary and apparently was sent to two unidentified EPA officials in July 1981, months before Cordia went to work for EPA.
'Please do not share the recommendations and staff lists with anyone. I would feel the backlash. I also repeat that the commends on both lists are not conclusive evidence but rather serve only as indicators from my advisers,' The Washington Post reported Cordia's note said.
Cordia said his work during the transition was the sort necessary for any change in administrations and he was proud of the work he did both with the transition team and Heritage Foundation and with the work he did at EPA.