First came the anguished father whose daughter died eight weeks ago, the victim of an unsafe toy that he said Terrence M. Scanlon's agency was allowing to be sold in violation of federal law.
Then came Scanlon's colleagues on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who accused him of subverting a major enforcement action.
They were followed by Scanlon's predecessors and consumer activists, who all seemed to agree that the 14-year-old agency has seen better days and stronger leadership than its controversial chairman is providing.
Finally came the Reagan administration, which said it was time to fold the agency into the Public Health Service.
CPSC Chairman Scanlon has known better days than the one he endured yesterday from the House consumer protection subcommittee in Room 2322 of the Rayburn Office Building. But after hearing almost four hours of testimony, Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) was openly uncertain of how to move.
"Our dilemma is: When the law is the law and the regulators are not carrying it out, what do we do?" the subcommittee chairman said. "Pass another law?"
Scanlon defended his agency, conceding that perhaps it was moving too slowly on some of the issues but insisting that it was aggressively pursuing many policies to protect consumers. Florio disagreed and provided waves of witnesses who vocally pummeled Scanlon.
The distraught father. Riverside, Calif., aerospace supervisor David A. Snow told of the death of his 7-year-old daughter Michele, speared in the head by a steel-tipped plastic lawn dart. The dart, Scanlon acknowledged, was sold in a toy store in apparent violation of a 17-year-old federal ban on such sales and in a box that failed to carry a proper warning of the toy's hazard.
Snow, his voice cracking with emotion, pleaded for swift action and said he was appalled that the agency had not moved against the store or the toy's manufacturer. "I'm only asking the CPSC to enforce its regulations," he said.
The disgruntled colleagues. In what appeared to suggest a return to fractious days on the three-member commission, Rep. Dennis E. Eckart (D-Ohio) produced a day-old memo from Commissioner Anne Graham in which she and Commissioner Carol G. Dawson accused Scanlon of attempting to undercut the agency's proposed recall of all-terrain vehicles. The ATVs have been labeled unsafe by the agency, but last year Scanlon broke with his colleague over whether the government should sue to force manufacturers to refund the purchase price of the vehicles.
The memo said Scanlon had dismissed two of the agency's most experienced lawyers from the case. "Mr. Scanlon, do you not see what this looks like?" asked Eckart. "It looks like you are determined to get your way -- one way or the other."
Scanlon denied undercutting the agency's proposed action, which is awaiting approval by the Justice Department. A CPSC lawyer later disclosed that the agency has voted to enter into negotiations that could lead to a settlement of the issue, potentially the most expensive recall ever voted by the agency.
The unhappy predecessors. A panel of three former CPSC members bemoaned its current status and two were sharply critical of Scanlon, as was the product safety director of the Consumer Federation of America, Mary Ellen Fise. She described the commission as "asleep at the wheel" and said it has not promulgated a final safety rule since 1984.
Republican Nancy Harvey Steorts of Dallas charged that Scanlon, a Democrat who replaced her as chairman, "frankly doesn't see the mandate" for the commission and that as a result it may have "lost sight of its mission." R. David Pittle, technical director of Consumers Union and another former commissioner, said Scanlon "delights in finding ways to reduce the agency's effectiveness."
The disapproving administration. Although it gathered little support for the concept in a Senate hearing last month, the administration yesterday repeated its call for abolishing the commission's independence and placing it under a single administrator in the Public Health Service.
Anthony McCann, an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, said one reason to support the change would be "to improve management of the agency though proper executive oversight . . . . "
That suggestion, Florio noted, has elicited rare unity from the commission members. All three want the commission to remain independent. "They can't agree on anything," said Florio, "but they agree on that."