Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is deepening his probe into alleged management problems at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.
In a letter to NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, asked for an accounting of various actions and expenditures at the NIEHS, following the committees review of the centers director, David Schwartz.
One possible conflict-of-interest issue was that Schwartz had been granted numerous waivers to provide expert testimony or medical opinions for at least two different law firms involved in asbestos lawsuits. As far back as the summer of 2005, numerous ethics officials at NIH raised red flags about this activity, yet it was allowed to continue, Grassley wrote.
In addition, a report by the NIHs Office of Management Assessment found that Schwartz had inappropriately used federal funds to pay for personal services.
Grassley indicated that there were gaps in the documents the NIH provided to the committee regarding the reported problems with Schwartz. Leaders of government agencies hold a public trust, said Grassley in a statement. They need to conduct themselves in a way that honors that trust and goes the extra mile to respect both the taxpayers and the mission of their institution. Grassley gave the NIH a deadline of July 10 to respond to his inquiries. -- by Jennifer Lubell