SACRAMENTO — Two of Gov. George Deukmejian's scientific advisers who helped shape implementation of Proposition 65 will step down from their posts amid charges that they favored the chemical industry, state officials said Thursday.
Wendell Kilgore, who is under investigation for a possible violation of ethics laws while serving as a federal scientific expert, will leave his post as chairman of the governor's Proposition 65 scientific advisory panel.
Warner North, a vocal member of the panel who has done extensive consulting work for industry groups, will also step down from his post.
Environmentalists, who often have been at odds with the panel's decisions, said they were pleased to see the duo leave and called on the governor to replace them with scientists who have no ties with businesses affected by the anti-toxics law.
"The governor needs to replace them with people who are free from pro-industry bias or an economic self-interest in the issues that come before the panel," said Al Meyerhoff, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The cloud that has been hanging over the panel needs to be removed, and trust in the panel needs to be restored."
Kilgore has been under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general for possibly violating federal ethics laws when he testified about the pesticide dinoseb on behalf of the Northwest Food Processors Assn. His testimony in an Oregon trial came shortly after he had left the EPA's scientific advisory panel, in which he advised the federal government on the same chemical.
Under federal law, it is illegal for an employee who has worked on a specific issue for a federal agency to act as an agent for an outside business or group on the same subject.
Kilgore could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Peter A. Nowinsky, said the UC Davis toxicology professor did not violate federal law. Kilgore believes that the EPA was attempting to "gag him" and interfere with his ability to speak his mind on toxics issues, according to Nowinsky.
Kilgore decided to leave his state post because of the controversy over the federal investigation and the Deukmejian Administration's failure to defend him against his critics, the attorney said.
"You're left with a man who feels he has given freely of his uniquely well-qualified service and credentials and has been treated abysmally in return," Nowinsky said.
The one-year terms of both Kilgore and North were set to expire today. Both sent letters to the Administration requesting that they not be reappointed.
In his letter, North said his consulting work and his service on the EPA's scientific advisory panel did not leave him sufficient time to continue serving on the state panel.
In the past, North has come under criticism from environmentalists for doing consulting work for such groups as the Chemical Manufacturers Assn., Chevron Oil and Monsanto while serving on the state panel.