Investigators: Ex-Chemical Safety Board Chief Misused Board Funds

June 30, 2023
Lemos allegedly spent more than $50,000 traveling from her home in San Diego to her office in Washington, D.C.

Former U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Chair Katherine Lemos misused board funds for travel, office furniture and unapproved training, according to a federal investigation report released June 28.

Lemos resigned from her position as CSB chair and board member on July 22, 2022. The investigation, which began on May 11, 2021, revealed that Lemos spent more than $50,000 traveling from her home in San Diego to the CSB office in Washington, D.C. in violation of the Federal Travel Regulation. She also took several other unapproved trips, including travel from Washington, D.C., to Norfolk, Virginia, to participate in an embarkation on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, an event that was not official CSB business.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General, which conducted the investigation, also concluded that Lemos exceeded the allowable cap on expenses to furnish and redecorate her office without prior notification to Congress, which was also in violation of the Federal Management Regulation.

Investigators also determined that Lemos used board funds for her own media training without prior approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, in violation of the Government Employees Training Act and OPM regulations.

In response to the findings, Lemos told investigators that she disagreed with their conclusions, according to the report. Lemos said she relied on the advice of CSB staff regarding the expense reimbursements at issue and claimed that CSB staff did not receive clear guidance from the Office of Presidential Personnel and the OPM on her travel expenses. 

Lemos also asserted that she was invited to the embarkation in Norfolk in her CSB capacity and that other CSB employees participated in her media training. She also stated that the investigators didn’t give credit to testimony that her furniture purchases were made after consulting with senior staff and her “priority to ensure a safe workplace during the Covid-19 environment for current and incoming board members and staff.”

CSB has been dealing with several internal and external issues for more than a decade, as former Chemical Processing Editor in Chief Mark Rosenzweig noted.

Last year, President Biden nominated Catherine J. K. Sandoval, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California, for the board. Lemos announced her resignation shortly after. According to Bloomberg (“US Chemical Safety Board Chair Resigns Citing Lost Confidence"), she declared in her resignation letter to President Biden, “Recent priorities of the Board have eroded my confidence in our ability to focus [on the CSB’s mission].”

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