The head of a federal agency inappropriately consolidated power and carried out an intimidation campaign against a government whistleblower, according to two Senate Republicans.
Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) in a letter Tuesday called on President Joe Biden to fire Arthur Traynor, the chairman of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, in response to a whistleblower complaint that alleges Traynor has attempted to gain sole authority over legal matters reviewed by the agency's three-member commission. After a whistleblower notified the U.S. Office of Special Counsel about the agency head's power grab, Traynor placed the employee on "investigative leave" without explanation, according to the letter.
Agency officials brought the allegation to the attention of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, of which Burr and Braun are members, after the whistleblower filed the complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, a staffer for the committee who is familiar with the matter told the Washington Free Beacon.
The Republicans' letter also alleges that Traynor's behavior toward employees has at times been "demeaning" and "threatening." The senators point to a public meeting last year in which Traynor referred to the two other commissioners as "rogue" and one specifically as a "moron."
"The allegations against Chair Traynor of intimidating behavior and retaliating against whistleblowers are deeply concerning," Burr told the Free Beacon. "This incident falls into a larger pattern we've seen from the Biden administration: install unaccountable bureaucrats in key labor roles and look the other way as they dismantle longstanding bias protections, push their political agenda, and create dysfunctional work environments."
Neither the White House nor the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission responded to requests for comment.
The whistleblower complaint comes two months after the White House investigated one of its top science advisers, Eric Lander, in response to complaints that he bullied and harassed employees. Lander later resigned and a whistleblower detailed additional allegations of a toxic workplace at the White House. Staffers later claimed that Lander allowed Eric Schmidt, the multibillionaire former CEO of Google, to have unprecedented access and influence for an outsider in the White House.
Former president Donald Trump appointed Traynor to the agency's three-member commission in 2019, and Biden promoted him to become the agency's chairman in 2021. The commission was established in 1977 under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act to review legal disputes over the health concerns of miners. Since its inception, lawyers have been assigned to cases by the commission's chief legal advisers to avoid conflicts of interest, according to the committee staffer familiar with the allegations. Traynor, however, wanted to take full control over the appointments himself, the staffer said.
Prior to his appointment, Traynor worked from 2014 to 2017 as the associate general counsel for the United Mine Workers of America. The union spent $184,000 on the 2020 election cycle—77 percent of which went to Democratic candidates.