Former CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso

Former CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso Mark Humphrey / AP file photo

House Oversight Leaders Refer Ex-Chemical Board Chair for Prosecution

Moure-Eraso said to have lied under oath on email practices.

The recently fired chairman of the Chemical Safety Board has been referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced on Wednesday.

Rafael Moure-Eraso, whose embattled tenure leading the independent investigative agency was ended three months early by President Obama in April, is alleged by committee members of both parties to have “committed perjury” by lying under oath to Congress on several issues relating to his use of private email.

For the past two years, Congress and an inspector general have investigated the board—whose five-member complement is now down to two—for various charges of mismanagement, mistreatment of whistleblowers and declining morale.

In asking Justice to investigate, Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah., and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., cited Moure-Eraso’s statements at 2014 and 2015 hearings that they said contradicted other statements given to the committee. Their letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch said: “Mr. Moure-Eraso testified, under oath, that he consulted with the general counsel of the CSB before approving a request to access the emails of two CSB employees.  However, the agency’s general counsel told the committee that the chairman did not do so.”

Secondly, they wrote, Moure-Eraso “testified, under oath, that the CSB’s former chief information officer was responsible for overseeing a production of emails to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General.  According to the inspector general, Mr. Moure-Eraso’s testimony is contradicted by the former CIO’s sworn statement.” 

Finally, the lawmakers charged that Moure-Eraso testified under oath “that he stopped using his personal email account for official business ‘about a year and a half’ before the committee’s June 2014 hearing.  Documents and information provided to the committee by the inspector general’s office indicate that Mr. Moure-Eraso in fact continued using his personal email account for official business until a much later date.”

In providing a video of the departed chairman’s statements, the lawmakers said, “the testimony in question is related to key aspects of the committee’s investigation, and in each case, Mr. Moure-Eraso appeared to answer questions in such a way as to avoid additional scrutiny.”

CSB General Counsel Richard Loeb and Managing Director Daniel Horowitz last month were placed on administrative leave by interim chairman Rick Engler pending a probe of “misconduct” related to the congressional investigation.

A vocal critic of Engler’s moves as acting chairman and a sometime defender of Moure-Eraso is Jeff Ruch, executive director of the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. On Wednesday, Ruch told Government Executive, “This criminal referral is a marginal attempt to keep an even more marginal issue alive. The actions of this committee are a continued avoidance of real steps toward improving the safety of our aging, increasingly dangerous industrial chemical infrastructure.”

Neither Moure-Eraso nor current CSB staff responded to inquiries by publication time.