WASHINGTON – Embattled NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said Wednesday that he has “no intention” of resigning, even as four fellow commission members – two Democrats and two Republicans – expressed grave concerns about his leadership.
Jaczko offered no apologies for his management style and denied all charges of bullying or intimidating staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during two-and-a-half hours of testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
He sat at a table between his four accusers who had sent a letter in October to the White House expressing their concerns.
George Apostolakis, William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki and William Ostendorff said they have serious doubts about their chairman’s leadership and accused him of bullying and intimidating behavior toward career staff.
They also pushed back against claims by Jaczko supporters that their concerns are politically motivated.
“It is not,” Ostendorff said. “It is not about Yucca Mountain. It is not about internal conflict between commissioners. Rather, this letter is about management actions that have significantly eroded the prized open and collaborative work environment of our nation’s nuclear safety agency.
Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered that his “passion” over safety had led to some misunderstandings. He said he was open to improving communications.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the committee, seemed exasperated by Jaczko’s responses and appeared to give great weight to the testimony provided by the four commissioners – particularly their accusations of staff harassment.
“Do you believe professional staff at the NRC have experienced intimidation, hostile or offensive behavior by the chairman?” Issa asked the commissioners.
All four responded: “Yes.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the definition of harassment,” Issa said.
Jaczko suggested that he could be cleared of at least one of the allegations of abuse through a recording of the actual telephone conversation in dispute. He asked that it be made public.
While not calling for his resignation, Issa said that the committee would continue to oversee the NRC management and would not tolerate any harassment or retaliation against those raising questions about Jaczko.
Jaczko remained dispassionate throughout the hearing even as some Republican committee members loudly questioned his unwillingness to accept blame.
In rat-a-tat fashion, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked Jaczko about the accusations. The commissioner denied them all.
“I don’t believe you. I think you should resign. I believe in these commissioners,” Chaffetz railed.
Maryland Rep. Eliajah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, dismissed calls for Jaczko to resign but suggested that he and the commission work together to put aside internal squabbles and focus on the mission of nuclear safety.
“I don’t want you to quit,” Cummings said. “We’ve got to do better than this. There is no reason why this has risen to this level … I beg you to work this thing out. Sit down like reasonable people and work this out.”
As he left the hearing room, Jaczko declined to answer questions from a crowd of reporters.
Magwood did stop in the hallway and responded to a number of questions but offered “no comment” on whether Jaczko should resign.
As to any links to Yucca Mountain, Magwood said there was a “big debate” last year but it had no bearing on the concerns being raised now over Jaczko’s leadership.
“It didn’t even come up,” Magwood said. “There was a big debate last year but after that was done we moved on.”