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Embattled Safety Official Quits After Investigation

May 24, 1985|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Robert A. Rowland, embattled director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, resigned today just after the Office of Government Ethics cleared him of conflict of interest in a review of $1 million in stock holdings he has in industries which he regulates.

Rowland said in a letter of resignation to President Reagan that he is leaving July 1.

A former Texas campaign fund-raiser for Reagan, Rowland was appointed assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA last July.

He has been criticized for recent decisions affecting the health and safety of employees in the nation's 4.5 million workplaces. He was also accused by a congressional subcommittee of harassing agency employees who disagreed with his decisions.

There was rejoicing over his resignation by organized labor. "For the health and safety of all American workers, we hope Rowland will be succeeded by an effective health professional," said AFL-CIO spokesman Rex Hardesty.

Among the objections of trade unionists were the political fund-raising backgrounds of Rowland and of the father of Rowland's predecessor at OSHA, Thorne Auchter. Auchter's father was a campaign fund-raiser for Reagan in Florida while former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan was Reagan's fund-raiser in New Jersey.

Rowland's stock holdings in the chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum and other industries regulated by OSHA had been under review by the ethics office for the last three weeks. Rowland, who obtained a limited waiver to the conflict-of-interest statute from Donovan last September, denied that his decisions at OSHA were affected by his stock holdings.

Rowland has faced a host of other problems.

Two weeks ago, he and two aides were called before a congressional subcommittee investigating accusations that the leadership at OSHA has harassed employees who dissent from agency decisions. Rowland denied the accusations.

Rowland angered migrant workers and other groups April 12 when, despite 13 years of effort by legal services groups, he decided not to require farmers to provide toilet facilities and drinking water for half a million field hands nationwide.

In January, he denied a request from a coalition of labor unions for an emergency standard to lower permissible worker exposure levels to formaldehyde.

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