Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House subcommittee on energy conservation and power, has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to investigate allegations of "serious impropriety" by three top officials in the agency's Office of Inspector and Auditor.
In a letter to NRC Chairman Nunzio J. Palladino, Markey said his subcommittee is looking into allegations that the director, deputy director and a special assistant in the office were involved in "an apparent scheme to discourage and possibly obstruct the prosecution of a sexual harassment complaint."
Markey did not give a source for the allegations and added that the subcommittee had not yet made any decision on their accuracy or supportability.
Markey asked the commission to "take immediate action to put responsible officials untainted by the present allegations" in charge of the office until the questions are resolved. He said that partly as a result of the allegations, he will introduce legislation to establish an independent inspector general at the NRC.
Joseph J. Fouchard, director of the NRC office of public affairs, said, "The NRC has an investigation under way of allegations involving our Office of Inspector and Auditor. We have no further comment at this time."
According to Markey, the allegations involve Sharon R. Connelly, director of the NRC's investigative office; Deputy Director George Messenger, and George A. Mulley Jr., a special assistant to Connelly. Connelly's attorney denied any impropriety on her part, and the others could not be reached.
The allegations, the letter said, involve the office's handling of a sexual harassment complaint against Messenger by a female employe. The woman has not been identified, and the exact nature of her complaints has not been described.
The letter said that Markey understood that as a result of the allegations, Messenger was removed from his job and transferred.
Messenger did not respond to calls to his former and current offices.
One allegation that Markey's subcommittee is investigating is whether Connelly "discouraged the victim and the Equal Employment Opportunity counselor from filing a complaint against Messenger and indicated that reprisals could be taken."
Connelly's lawyer, August Bequai, said his client had not discouraged the alleged victim from filing a complaint against Messenger. Bequai also said that Connelly had not mentioned the possibility of reprisals against the woman.
In addition, Markey said he had received allegations that after the sexual harassment complaint was made, Mulley improperly "reviewed highly confidential personnel files containing security clearance investigative findings" on the woman and three persons who testified on her behalf.
In the letter, Markey said he had received allegations that Connelly either directed Mulley to conduct the search of the confidential files "or was aware of it and took no action to prevent or respond to it." Bequai said that Connelly had no knowledge of the alleged file search.
Markey asked the NRC to provide the subcommittee with all documents relating to the allegations by Friday.
In addition, he asked to be told whether the NRC plans to refer the case to the Justice Department for investigation.