The Office of Government Ethics announced yesterday that it is launching a formal review of the activities of Robert A. Rowland, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Ethics office director David G. Martin said Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, had sought the review to see if Rowland has violated the federal conflict-of-interest law.
According to his financial disclosure form, Rowland owns more than $1 million in chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum and other stocks, all industries potentially affected by his decisions as an assistant secretary of Labor in charge of OSHA. Since he took over his job last July as a recess appointee, Rowland has participated in four agency regulatory matters affecting companies in which he owns at least $300,000 in stock.
Then-Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan granted Rowland a waiver from the conflict-of-interest law, allowing the OSHA director to participate in broad policy-making that might involve the companies in which he holds a financial interest. The waiver did not apply to matters pertaining to a specific company, however.
The matter was referred to Martin's office Friday by the General Accounting Office, which had received a review request from Hawkins. The GAO said it does not investigate whether criminal statutes have been violated.
Rowland has placed his holdings in a qualified blind trust, under which he is informed if any of his stocks are sold. As of April 10, Rowland said, none had. Rowland has said that he would adhere to the provisions of Donovan's limited waiver and that "I don't think that I can possibly do anything up here that is really going to affect the interests I have."
If the ethics office finds that Rowland's decisions might have been affected by his investments, the matter would be referred to the Justice Department.