While Interior Secretary Donald Hodel was telling one House subcommittee chairman yesterday that he fired Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca to ensure "independent advice" from a commission reviewing plans for Ellis Island, two other House subcommittee chairmen were wondering if the same line of thinking shouldn't apply to Hodel's subordinates.
In a letter to Hodel, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) noted that Interior Solicitor Ralph Tarr has declined to excuse himself from pending decisions affecting the Westlands Water District near Fresno, Calif., even though Tarr's former Fresno law firm has long represented Westlands farmers in interminable disputes with Interior.
Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.) had his own candidate: Bureau of Land Management Director Robert F. Burford, who has stayed involved in decisions on grazing permits and fees after transferring his own permits to a family-owned business.
Both Burford and Tarr have insisted that there is no conflict of interest involved.
Miller conceded that under the letter of the law, Solicitor Tarr may be right. But he said there is an "appearance of impropriety."
"This is the same department that found a conflict with Iacocca," Miller said at a hearing of the Interior and Insular Affairs subcommittee he chairs. Synar heads a Government Operations subcommittee. Earlier, Hodel had testified before the House Appropriations interior subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.).
Shakers and Movers . . . For at least 10 years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is scattered around the capital in about a dozen locations, has been trying to consolidate its staff. Now that the goal is in sight -- in the form of a new 18-story tower near White Flint -- eyebrows may be raised over some of the commissioners' design specifications.
According to the trade publication Inside N.R.C., the five commissioners have requested amenities that include a suite and private bathroom for each of them.
Physical fitness facilities and a day care center were reportedly discussed, but a decision on them was deferred.
NRC spokeswoman Sue F. Gagner said these preliminary plans come at the request of the General Services Administration, which will purchase the building for the commission if the Office of Management and Budget approves.