- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

The Environmental Protection Agency's independent investigator said the agency violated a court order this week by trying to confiscate his files, which may be embarrassing to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
Mrs. Whitman tried to dissolve the ombudsman position held by Robert J. Martin earlier this month, and to move the files into the office of the inspector general.
However, a temporary restraining order against the move was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts until a full hearing could be held.
The order is in effect until Feb. 26.
A spokesman for Mr. Martin, Hugh B. Kaufman, said five employees attempted to remove all files, records and file cabinets on Wednesday but were stopped by a senior scientist.
Mr. Kaufman called the incident harassment and said it was retaliation against Mr. Martin for investigations that exposed a financial conflict of interest between Mrs. Whitman's husband and polluters at two cleanup sites.
EPA spokesman Joe Martyak did not return calls yesterday for comment.
In a memo to Mrs. Whitman, Mr. Kaufman sought assurances "files that may be embarrassing to you and/or EPA will not disappear in the future."
John Whitman is the managing partner of a venture capital firm controlled by Citicorp, a subsidiary of Citigroup, a diversified financial corporation.
Additionally, Citigroup stocks valued between $100,000 and $250,000 are listed in Mrs. Whitman's financial disclosure statement.
Citigroup is responsible for the original botched cleanup of the Shattuck Superfund site in Colorado and will pay one-fifth of the $35 million cost. A Citigroup financial partner also is responsible for the cleanup at the Marjol Battery in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Martin's files contain information on both cleanup operations, and his investigations are supported by key Senate Republicans.
"Since this action on your part and/or the part of EPA officials under your influence or control is a direct violation of Judge Roberts' orders of Jan. 11, 2002, I respectfully ask that you cease and desist your continued illegal actions in retaliation against National Ombudsman Martin for honestly performing his duties, even if those duties might end up costing Citigroup (the company you have a financial conflict of interest in) more money in cleaning up hazardous waste sites," Mr. Kaufman said in the memo to Mrs. Whitman.
A spokesman for Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, said any violation of the court order is "unacceptable."
"We must obey the law in this case, and the EPA is not above the law," said spokesman Sean Conway.
"For them to be acting in this manner is extremely disappointing to Senator Allard."
Mr. Martin and Mr. Kaufman met yesterday with Sen. Michael D. Crapo, Idaho Republican.
Mr. Crapo finds the apparent violation distressing, spokeswoman Susan Wheeler said after the meeting.
"Senator Crapo wants the ombudsman to be able to do his work as independently and as effectively as possible," Miss Wheeler said.
The ombudsman's office handles citizen complaints and has been critical of the Clinton administration. Mrs. Whitman wants to combine that office with the inspector general's operation.
Mr. Martin's office is also at odds with the EPA over the reopening of the Hart Senate Office Building and initial testing of air quality at the cleanup site of the World Trade Center.
Mr. Martin said toxic chemical gas used to fumigate the anthrax-contaminated Hart Building could pose a long-term health threat to senators and congressional staffers.
He also said the cleanup could have been accomplished for less money using safer, nonchemical treatments.
Mr. Kaufman also said no samples were taken of air quality at apartments and office buildings near ground zero.

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