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Press Release Published:May 5, 2022

Comer, Norman Probe FMSHRC Chair’s Hostile Work Practices and Political Interference

WASHINGTON — Today, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Subcommittee on the Environment Ranking Member Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) expressed concerns over information obtained detailing political interference, a hostile work environment, and inappropriate management practices at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC). In a letter to Chairman Arthur Traynor, the lawmakers emphasized how his actions are potentially derailing the Commission’s mission and requested more information and communications to understand how Traynor’s tenure as chair has impacted policies and procedures at the FMSHRC.  

“We are conducting oversight of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC). Information received by Committee Republicans raises concerns that the mission of FMSHRC has been derailed by political interference, a hostile work environment, and inappropriate management practices,” wrote the lawmakers. “According to documents obtained by Committee Republicans, you have taken unprecedented measures to unilaterally control and politicize the review of cases prepared by career FMSHRC attorneys… In addition, we understand you have been involved in personnel decisions without consulting your fellow Commissioners, which is outside of the normal procedure.”

In documents obtained by Committee Republicans, Chair Traynor deviated from normal Commission procedures, threatened to terminate career general counsel Michael McCord from the federal service if he shared information, suspended employees without consulting fellow Commissioners, and unilaterally hired new personnel and initiated investigations. 

“These actions suggest an additional attempt on your part to control the Commission. Mr. McCord has filed a report with the Office of Special Counsel and invoked both the Whistleblower Protection Act and No-FEAR Act in response to your conduct. However, it appears that through your continued written threats to Mr. McCord and your subsequent suspension of his duties, you are retaliating against him in violation of the protections embedded in these two acts. Your fellow Commissioners have sounded the alarm on your conduct, noting that it goes against established precedent regarding the autonomy of a Chair in a multi-member commission like FMSHRC. These allegations demonstrate that as Chair of FMSHRC your inappropriate actions endanger the important mission of the Commission,” concluded the lawmakers.   

Read the letter here.