Monday May 27, 2019
Commission Votes Down Baiocco Move to Bring in Outsider on 6(b) Matter
CPSC members May 21 voted 2-3 against a motion by Commissioner Dana Baiocco to bring in a detailee from FBI, DOJ or similar agency to investigate the large disclosure of information outside 6(b) procedures. Commissioner Peter Feldman joined her in voting for the idea. Her move – during the decisional meeting on the midyear update – led to sometimes testy back-and-forth, especially between her and Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle.
The move also caused a recess lasting almost an hour and a half as commissioners looked at the matter out of public view. The proposal would have brought in a commission-approved person to investigate the releases, including the ongoing responses and possible future actions.
Commissioners would have gotten regular updates, and Baiocco allowed for potential public sessions. She wanted the investigator to let the commission know of any relevant legal interpretations by the general counsel (GC) office and to ensure that the panel had final say on such matters.
The person would have had "full cooperation" of agency staff. A report would have addressed not just internal handling of the situation but also dealing with affected parties.
As for why, Baiocco voiced frustration with her ability to stay informed about the situation, even suggesting that her access to staff has been controlled. She also was critical of the GC, including asserting that she got wrong information.
On the other hand, to suggestions that she was repudiating CPSC's inspector general (IG) office, she clarified her trust and confidence. It is conducting an investigation (PSL, 5/20/19).
Existence of that review prompted some of the pushback with concern raised by Commissioner Robert Adler about interfering with the IG work. Buerkle echoed his worry.
Adler offered compromise amendments, but they were voted down 2-3. Commissioner Elliot Kaye joined Baiocco and Feldman in rejecting them. Adler's four changes would have delayed the outsider investigation until the IG's was done as well as required the person to submit a work plan, to certify understanding of 6(b), and to get permission to task agency staff with work lasting longer than two hours.
Some of the tenser exchanges included Baiocco suggesting that there was more to the situation than what Buerkle directed the IG to review. At another point, Buerkle said that she would welcome an outside investigation, clarifying that her hesitancy involved interfering with the IG's work.
Adler rejected the idea of a scandal, calling the matter an "innocent mistake" by staffers who "owned up to" it.
Despite voting against the idea, Kaye seemed open to the idea as a general matter, including suggesting the person could have looked at the decision to put the Information Clearinghouse under FoIA control (see related story).