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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Transportation Committee Chair DeFazio objects to USDOT IG's replacement


U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) have written to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to oppose President Donald Trump's removal of former Acting Inspector General (IG) Mitch Behm and demand that he be reinstated immediately.

Last week, Trump designated Howard Elliott, administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to replace Behm while allowing Elliott to keep his post at PHMSA, the chairs said in a press release.

Elliott appears to have no investigatory or law enforcement experience; Behm has served in the office since 2003, they said.

"Mr. Behm's removal is the latest in a series of politically motivated firings of inspectors general by President Trump," states the letter to Chao. "This assault on the integrity and independence of inspectors general appears to be an intentional campaign to undermine their ability to expose corruption and protect taxpayer dollars waste, fraud and abuse."

The chairs also wrote to Elliott to raise concerns about what they view as conflicts of interest created by his simultaneous roles as PHMSA administrator and acting inspector general.

"This inherent conflict of interest would prohibit you from having the independence necessary to conduct fair and rigorous oversight of the [transportation] department and the secretary," they wrote.

In their letters, the chairs requested information about ongoing audits, inspections, investigations, evaluations, reviews or other engagements, as well as any communications regarding Behm's removal and Elliott's qualifications for IG by June 1.