A controversial senior staff member at the Consumer Product Safety Commission is leaving the agency, but it's not the person who was named by an agency spokesman on Wednesday.
Paul Rubin, a conservative economist who had pressed for the agency to adopt cost-benefit analysis before undertaking regulatory actions, is leaving the agency to join a consulting firm in the Washington area, officials said.
David Schmeltzer, the longtime head of the agency's compliance directorate, is remaining and is undertaking a study of the agency's field operations, officials said. The spokesman who had said Schmeltzer, recently stripped of his enforcement duties, was leaving the CPSC was away from the agency yesterday because of a religious holiday.
Rubin, who leaves the agency today to join the firm of Glassman and Oliver, was regarded as a protege of CPSC Chairman Terrence M. Scanlon, who recruited him from the Federal Trade Commission two years ago. Scanlon supported Rubin's call for increased use of economic studies to determine the agency's priorities, an action opposed by consumer groups and some members of Congress.
They said it was impossible to weigh the benefits of many proposed product actions against the costs of removing unsafe products from the marketplace. Rubin argued that the agency had limited resources and needed to concentrate on actions that would bring the most benefits to the most consumers.
Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce consumer protection subcommittee, on Wednesday proposed legislation that would prohibit the agency from using such formulas before undertaking actions.
Scanlon's decision last month to transfer Schmeltzer, a lawyer, from the enforcement job brought complaints from consumer groups and Congress that the chairman was attempting to silence one of the agency's most experienced senior staff members.