Lips Are Sealed
Whatever happened to that investigation we requested after the last CFS Advisory Committee meeting? Good question.
You may recall that at the May 2013 CFSAC meeting, voting member Eileen Holderman alleged that she and two other members had been intimidated and threatened with expulsion from the Committee for expressing their views. On June 12th, I joined forty-five other organizations and individuals in requesting that the General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services undertake an investigation of those allegations.
On June 21st, the General Counsel referred the matter to the Office of the Assistant Secretary, which oversees the CFSAC. Since then? We haven’t heard word one. We’ve received no updates and no responses to inquiries. More than 90 days have passed since our original request, and less than 60 days remain until the November CFSAC meeting.
The importance of this really can’t be overstated. Two members are on record saying that they have been intimidated for expressing their views. The public can have no confidence in any deliberations or recommendations made by a federal advisory committee where members are being intimidated by the Designated Federal Officer.
As I have said from the very beginning, I do not know if the allegations are true. That’s why we requested an investigation: to find out. The best thing the Assistant Secretary can do is conduct a full and impartial investigation, and report his findings to the public. We have no way of knowing if that process is underway because no one is responding to our requests for information. All I need to hear is “we’re looking into it and will issue a report by such and such date.” I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation.
Yesterday, Mary Dimmock made yet another request for information. This is the full text of her letter to Assistant Secretary Koh:
Dear Assistant Secretary Koh,
It has been more than 90 days since I asked General Counsel William Schultz to investigate whether the CFS Advisory Committee’s Designated Federal Officer Dr. Nancy Lee had intimated voting members of the Committee. Forty-six organizations and individuals joined me in that request, and expressed deep concern after the allegations of intimidation were made on the record at the May 23, 2013 CFSAC meeting.
General Counsel Shultz referred the matter to your office on or about June 21, 2013. I wrote to you on August 22, 2013, requesting an update on the status of the investigation. Neither you nor anyone from your office has responded to my inquiry.
The CFS Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet on November 12 and 13, 2013. If the allegations of intimidation are true, then the integrity and function of the Committee is materially impaired. No one can have confidence in an advisory committee that has been compromised by federal intimidation directed at minority or dissenting viewpoints. Failure to objectively investigate or take necessary action will similarly undermine public confidence in the transparency and accountability of the Committee and the Department.
Therefore, I once again request a written update from your office on the status of this investigation. If the investigation is completed, I request a written summary of the findings and any action that has been taken. Given the time sensitive nature of this investigation, I ask that you respond to me in writing by October 15, 2013. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Now we wait. Again.