Image: Lester Crawford
Stephen J. Boitano  /  Getty Images file
Dr. Lester M. Crawford resigned after just two months as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
updated 9/29/2005 5:29:24 PM ET 2005-09-29T21:29:24

Senators with oversight of the Food and Drug Administration asked for an inspector general’s inquiry Thursday into the circumstances surrounding the sudden resignation of the agency’s chief.

In particular, the lawmakers want information about whether Lester Crawford followed ethics laws that require he report his financial assets and income to the government.

Sens. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., want “a thorough review of the reasons surrounding Dr. Crawford’s resignation.” Their letter was sent to Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department.

Crawford gave no reason for his departure in his resignation letter last Friday.

Enzi is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Kennedy is the top Democrat. Five House Democrats have a similar request.

The senators also want Levinson to provide the dates that Crawford may have had financial holdings that could have been affected by agency decisions.

Denied rumors of financial conflicts
Some reports have suggested that Crawford’s resignation was related to an omission from his financial disclosure form. HHS officials would not comment on the reports, calling it a personnel matter.

Laura Bradbard, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the office had received the letter and would respond to it.

Messages left Thursday for Crawford were not immediately returned. He denied to other media outlets this week that he had any conflicts with his finances and said he was simply tired and wanted to seek work elsewhere.

Financial disclosure forms are required of high-level administration officials to ensure they do not financially benefit from decisions they make or have other conflicts of interest in matters they oversee.

Crawford’s form shows ownership in a number of stocks, including Bank of America and Microsoft, but none from companies over which he would appear to have had regulatory authority.

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Only in the position for two months
Crawford resigned only two months after the Senate confirmed him for the post. During his confirmation process, Crawford endured an anonymous charge that he had an extramarital affair with an agency employee and that she received favorable treatment as a result. The HHS inspector general found no evidence that it was true.

Crawford had functioned as acting head for more than year before his confirmation, and his surprise resignation last week gave no specific reason for his departure.

Several experts said they would be surprised if Crawford, a Washington and FDA veteran, would make a mistake on his financial disclosure forms that would be serious enough to force his resignation.

His tenure was marked by increasing criticism of the agency by those who contended it had become more interested in politics or benefiting drug companies than in its mission to protect consumers.

President Bush has named Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, head of the National Cancer Institute, the government’s lead cancer research agency, as the acting FDA chief.

Eschenbach has said he will remain in both jobs, leading to criticism he will not be able to give either job the full attention they deserve.

Some critics also said he will face conflicts of interest because he could have regulatory authority over cancer products he helped develop.

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