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Tuesday October 01, 2019

Mullan to Shift to CPSC GC; Adler Stresses Continuity

Gib Mullan will become CPSC general counsel, Acting Chairman Bob Adler told PSL, October 1. Mullan will step into that spot likely in mid-October.


Mullan has been Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle's chief counsel, but he previously served as CPSC general counsel under ex-Chairman Hal Stratton starting in early 2004 (PSL, 1/12/04) before becoming Compliance chief later that year (PSL, 12/20/04). He left CPSC in 2010 to serve on the House Commerce Committee and returned to join Buerkle's staff in 2014 (PSL, 2/24/14).


Adler alluded to this experience to explain the decision to tap Mullan, saying, "We don't have to do anything to bring him up to speed" on CPSC matters. He added that he had quipped to agency staff last week that his decision showed his commitment to recycling.


Numerous times during the sit-down with PSL, Adler stressed a desire for continuity and consistency, and he mentioned that Patricia Hanz had a personal reason for leaving the general counsel slot. She is still at the agency and will be for a short while, he added.


As for similar-level division leaders, Adler said that others in place under Buerkle will remain – people such as Mary Boyle (executive director), Chris Hudgins (legislative affairs director), and Joe Martyak (communications director).


As for interaction with the fellow commissioners, Adler expressed a desire for "shifting majorities" as opposed to partisan voting blocs. He acknowledged that "each commissioner is entitled to his or her view" and that that the commission is a "multi-member board," whose members "have to listen to each other" to find consensus.


However, he said he hopes policy priorities would drive decisions, adding, "I don't think product safety should be political." He also used words like comity and congeniality about his desires. When Buerkle leaves later in October, the panel will have a 2-2 tie on party lines.


Adler also acknowledged Buerkle's priority of hearing from stakeholders and said he wanted to continue such outreach, mentioning that he already has numerous conversations set up.


In response to PSL questions about policy plans, Adler said he would ask staff for an annual report on senior safety, one of his long-standing priorities. He also asserted that the Compliance Office is understaffed, so filling empty slots there is important. He additionally mentioned that he wants to ensure that CPSC uses social media well although he added that he was not suggesting a deficiency. On future votes, he suggested that the crib bumper proposal is ripe for input from industry stakeholders. CPSC staff last month (PSL, 9/15/19) urged the commission to make seven changes to ASTM F1917-12 in their proposal for a Section 104 rule.


However, much of the conversation involved Adler's desire for stability and keeping CPSC "on an even keel." He asserted that if any "dramatic changes" were to come to CPSC, they would need to wait for a Senate-approved chairman to be in place. He called himself a "caretaker."


Adler, a Democrat, took the reins of the agency October 1. Buerkle, a Republican, voted with the Democratic commissioners to make Adler vice chairman so this would occur. Adler became a commissioner in 2009, and he previously served as acting chairman from late 2013 to the middle of 2014 between the chairmanships of Inez Tenenbaum and Elliot Kaye. He also served as a staffer from 1973 to 1984.


Buerkle announced earlier this year that she would leave October 27 (PSL, 6/24/19). Her term technically ended about a year ago, but she has been serving the extra year allowed to commissioners to minimize vacancies. In early 2017, she had been nominated for another term to 2025 and to become chairman officially. However, the Senate never took final votes on either nomination. Indeed, new sessions of Congress necessitated resubmissions twice. She joined the commission in 2013.


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More on these developments from Product Safety Letter


Adler's First Day as Acting Chairman to Be October 1; Vote Was 3-2


Adler to Become CPSC Acting Chairman


Buerkle Announces October Departure from CPSC