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AIDS Panel Director Quits Amid Dissent : Some Commissioners Unhappy With Her Work, Lack of Input

September 15, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The executive director of the AIDS Commission established by President Reagan has resigned following grumbling by panel members over her work, a member of the panel said today.

Linda D. Sheaffer, a government health officer on loan to the commission, left the job Friday, according to the official, who demanded anonymity.

"I did hear a lot of complaints by committee members that they didn't like her work; they weren't getting enough chance for input on witnesses or where they would hold hearings," added a White House official, who also demanded anonymity.

This official said the problem stemmed from friction between panel members and the commission's chairman, Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, who had chosen Sheaffer for the job.

Commissioners 'Put Out'

"Some of the commissioners have been a little put out as to what they perceive as Mayberry's heavy-handed running of things, so this may be a symbolic deal," the official said. "There was grumbling about his hiring her without any input (from other commissioners)."

Attempts to reach Sheaffer on Monday night were unsuccessful, but the New York Times, which reported on her resignation today, said she issued a two-sentence statement that she read over the phone:

"After the recent meeting of the commission, the chairman asked that I resign. He did so because of internal disagreements within the commission that had nothing to do with my overall performance as the executive director."

She declined to give details on the disagreements, saying: "To discuss it further will only do further damage to the commission. It proves to me how frightened everyone is that they won't be able to complete the job assigned to them."

The newspaper reported that Mayberry, who is chief executive officer of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., had argued for Sheaffer's retention in the job despite demands that she be replaced, but eventually he yielded to the pressure and asked her to resign.

Unhappiness With Slow Pace

The newspaper reported that several commissioners said the chief reasons for Sheaffer's ouster were dissatisfaction with the slow pace at which the panel has begun its work and a feeling that the 13-member commission could not succeed in its mission without a more effective staff.

"The members of the commission were not satisfied with her performance in the Washington office," Dr. Burton J. Lee III, a member of the commission who is a physician at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, told the newspaper.

"For whatever reason, lack of staff or whatever, things just weren't happening," Lee said. "With Gene Mayberry out in Rochester, Minn., most of the time, the commission felt we had to get a really good, high-powered full-time person" to lead the staff.

Before Sheaffer began work for the AIDS Commission, she had led the federal Office of Organ Transplantation.

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