The Washington Post

FDA official caught in prostitution sting

William Maisel, right, and actor Dennis Quaid, testifying on Capitol Hill on a matter unrelated to Maisel’s arrest. (Lawrence Jackson/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It seems what happens in the Maryland suburbs doesn’t stay in the Maryland suburbs.

An FDA official’s arrest in Laurel, Md., on charges of soliciting a prostitute has one watchdog group questioning his work for the agency. Last month, William Maisel, deputy director at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, was arrested on four counts of soliciting a prostitute and one count of disorderly conduct. He’s facing a Sept. 20 trial.

Which would be bad enough for one’s career.

But now things are getting really ugly. The National Whistleblower Center, which was already ticked at the FDA, is using the arrest to ask whether Maisel’s alleged crimes might have affected his work—particularly his involvement in a scandal in which FDA officials spied on the agency’s own scientists who had expressed concerns about the safety of medical devices.

Maisel, according to the whistleblower group, was responsible for the final decision to fire Ewa Czerska, one of the targets of a surveillance operation in which the agency monitored the computers and communications of a group of scientists who were subsequently fired or left the agency and later sued.

In a letter to the FDA last week, the whistleblower group questioned the propriety of a person (that would be Maisel) accused of such a crime snooping around the “intimate” details of another employee. The group also raised a wide range of queries, from whether the FDA had conducted a background check on Maisel to whether it plans to investigate him and his work in light of the charges against him.

Maisel did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The FDA insists that the arrest is a private matter that has no bearing on his work. Maisel is still employed at the agency. “We consider this a personal matter that has nothing to do with the work he does at the agency,” FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson tells the Loop.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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