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Project on Government Oversight




EPA Ombudsman's Office Shut Down, Whitman Attempts to Confiscate Files

January 29, 2002 


"Christine Todd Whitman has continued to show bad faith regarding the EPA Ombudsman's office. In a one-two punch, Whitman stripped the Ombudsman of his title and tried to confiscate his case files," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

Last week, Whitman attempted to remove investigation files from EPA Ombudsman Robert Martin's office, a mere two weeks after a U.S. District judge ordered that the files remain in the control of the Ombudsman.

EPA officials have also recently informed Martin by e-mail that he will be reassigned to the Office of Inspector General and "detailed to an unclassified position," a move that dissolves the Office of the Ombudsman by removing his current title and job duties. He has not been given the official paperwork that would identify any new title or job duties. "Whitman's actions, if successful, will leave Superfund communities without a voice at the EPA," said Brian.

For years, the Ombudsman has been deeply critical of numerous EPA decisions regarding the clean-up of Superfund sites across the country. Efforts to limit his independence begun under the Clinton Administration have dramatically escalated under Whitman's authority. In recent months, Whitman has prevented him from investigating sensitive cases and had proposed moving him under the direct control of the Inspector General.

These actions by EPA Administrator Whitman have drawn widespread criticism as ongoing Ombudsman investigations have been thwarted by her persistent attempts to dismantle the office. Supporters of Ombudsman independence include Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, the General Accounting Office, and community groups across the country who are affected by Superfund sites in their neighborhoods. 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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