Rep. John J. Flynt Jr., chairman of the House ethics committee, struck back yesterday at criticism that he was hindering the progress of the committe's investigation of South Korean influence-buying on Capitol Hill.
He said he will announce today that the committee will meet the next three Wednesdays and during the August recess "if necessary." The committee has not met since June 8 and has had only 10 meetings all year.
Flynt said in an interview that he was "disappointed" and "shocked" by two memoranda that Philip A. Lacovara, the committee's special counsel, sent to other committee members just before the July 4 congressional recess. In the memos, Lacovara complained that Flynt's failure to hold timely committee meetings was slowing the work of his investigators.
"I don't think they're accurate," Flynt said of the Lacovara memos.
He said he told Lacovara just when the special counsel read him the first memo early in the week before the recess. "I thought he understood, because he didn't send it," Flynt said.
Later that week, however, after Flynt was unsuccessful in getting a quorum for a special meeting Lacovara askel for the special counsel wrote a second memo repeating his concerns, and sent both in and the earlier message to the other committee members.
Flynt said yesterday that he had told Lacovara several times that it was going to be difficult to call meetings in June because of the various appropriations bills before the House. "Evidently that fell on deaf ears," he said.
The committee chairman also said that there was nothing mentioned in the Lacovara memos that couldn't have waited until today's scheduled committee meeting. Flynt said he felt Lacovara was anxious to have the prerecess gathering because the cheif lawyer was going to be on vacation himself this week.
"I did not seek this apparent confrontation," Flynt said. "As far as I'm concerned it was unilateral."
Flynt said that he had hired Lacovara, a member of the Watengate special prosecution force, because he felt he was the "best qualified" person to lead the South Korean investigation.
But he added, "I think he's got, to realize that he works for the committee and that he is not the committe."
Other members of the committee have expressed concern that Lacovara's complaints might give the public the impression that the committee was stalling and that Congress couldn't investigate itself.
In fact, news of the Flynt-Lacovara rift touched off renewed calls yeaterday from a Watergate-type special prosecutor to handle the Korean inquiries now being conducted by the Justice Department, the ethics committee, and another House subcommittee.
Republican Party Chairman Bill Brock said President Carter should name a special prosecutor and "disregard any political damage that may occur to members of the Democrat party." He said such an appointment was necessary to "avoid any appearance of cover-up."
Two freshman Democrats, Reps. Peter H. Kostmayer, of Pennsylvania, and Richard Gephardt, of Missouri, began circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter yesterday also during support for a special prosecutor in the case.
President Carter has turned down earlier such suggestions.
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. was reluctant yesterday to enter the debate over the progress of the ethics committee investigation. He said he had no plans to approach Flynt about the dispute with Lacovara.