Paul Hill Jr., the chief executive officer of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), called a staff meeting Dec. 17 to announce his intention to resign from the position.
Hill said the resignation would be effective no later than year's end; as of Dec. 21 he had not submitted the necessary paperwork to the White House.
The CSB has been virtually paralyzed by a power struggle between Hill and the three other board members.
It has completed investigation reports in the last year, although it also has delivered a number of recommendations to Congress and has been especially active on the Y2K front.
The conflict is centered on whether the CEO is fully accountable to board for budget, staffing and investigative decisions. When Hill submitted a 2001 budget proposal to Congress without the board's approval, the board voted to have Hill's budget rescinded.
Hill has been on medical/personal leave for weeks, and appointed Chief Operating Officer Phyllis Thompson to replace him. Board members questioned the legality of this move, however.
The CSB chief appeared to be increasingly isolated earlier this month when Sen. Frank Lautenberg D-N.J., one of the board's chief congressional supporters, released a letter siding with the board's position. Lautenberg was one of the principal authors of the legislation authorizing the CSB.
Hill intends to remain as a regular board member, according to CSB spokesperson Phil Cogan, leaving the denouement of the conflict unclear.
President Clinton could name a current member of the CSB to replace Hill, or he could bring in someone new since the board currently as a vacancy.