PRESS RELEASE

Trump Holdover’s Hasty Exit Not Fast Enough

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 17, 2022
Contact:
Jeff Ruch jruch@peer.org (510) 213-7028


Trump Holdover’s Hasty Exit Not Fast Enough

Chemical Safety Board Chair Lemos Resigns but Wants to Stay Thru July 22

 

Washington, DC — The Trump-appointed head of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has abruptly resigned less than halfway through her five-year term but wants to extend her tenure for another six weeks. Citing her extravagant spending, improper actions, lack of cooperation with Biden appointees, and stunningly poor productivity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is calling for her immediate removal.   

Former President Trump appointed Katherine Lemos as CSB Chairperson on March 25, 2020. From that point until earlier this year, when two Biden appointees were confirmed, Lemos was the sole member of the five-member CSB.    

On June 10, 2022, Lemos submitted her resignation claiming that “Recent priorities of the Board have eroded my confidence in our ability to focus” on its mission.  Rather than resign immediately, she wants to make her resignation effective on July 22nd 

Her resignation comes as she is facing a slew of Inspector General probes and growing calls for her ouster due to a pattern of misconduct, including – 

  • Unilaterally changing her permanent duty station from the CSB’s Washington, DC headquarters to San Diego, CA, her personal residence, without notifying the White House as required.  She did so after pandemic waiver authorities allowing her to continue charging taxpayers for her cross-country expenses (such as the rule against paying for lodging within 50 miles of the employee’s duty station) had lapsed;
  • Budgeting $50,000 for travel between her home and the agency’s headquarters, charging her travel costs (airfare, hotels, meals and other expenses) to taxpayers; and
  • Spending $20,000 on office renovations for her CSB office in Washington, DC, far exceeding the $5,000 limitation on office renovations for new agency heads.   

With an annual budget of approximately $12 million, the CSB is the only federal agency charged with investigating the causes of factory explosions, refinery fires, and other industrial accidents and recommending how to prevent recurrences. It is an area in which neither Lemos nor any of her senior appointees have any prior experience.  

“Katherine Lemos was a complete disaster for the Chemical Safety Board,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, pointing out that under her tenure CSB managed to issue only three investigative reports, the fewest during any comparable period in its history. “President Biden should remove Ms. Lemos immediately so she can remain in San Diego permanently at her own expense without further cost to the taxpayer.”   

Lemos also refused to work with the new Biden appointees,  asserting unique “authorities” in an attempt to manage the agency as a “quorum of one.”  This May, she refused to recognize a majority vote of the Board on governance that, among other things, stripped Lemos of her claimed authority to impose “disciplinary measures” on other Board Members. 

“When finally faced with working with other Board Members as colleagues, Lemos ignored and tried to intimidate them,” added Whitehouse, noting that while Lemos and other CSB board members are appointed to serve five-year terms, they may be removed for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office” by the President. “Katherine Lemos appears to have jumped ship before being ordered to walk the plank.” 

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See Lemos email announcing her intention to stay until July 22  

Read PEER’s letter to President Biden seeking her immediate removal  

Examine Lemos’ extravagant spending  

Look at her unqualified senior appointees 

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