Scientist Who Spoke Out on Fluoride Ordered Reinstated to Job
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A scientist fired from the Environmental Protection Agency after raising health concerns about fluoride has won a two-year battle to get his job back.
″I have finally been vindicated,″ said William L. Marcus. ″Fighting the federal government is by no means an easy task.″
Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich ordered that Marcus be returned to his $87,000-a-year job at the EPA and be paid back wages, legal costs and a $50,000 penalty.
The ruling upheld an earlier decision by Administrative Law Judge David Clarke Jr., who concluded that the EPA’s charges against Marcus were only ″a pretext″ and that Marcus actually was fired ″because he publicly questioned and opposed EPA’s fluoride policy.″
EPA spokesman John Kasper said the agency would have no comment ″until we have fully reviewed the decision.″
Marcus was fired May 13, 1992, after a four-year investigation during which the agency accused him of improperly using agency information for private gain, being improperly absent from work and engaging in outside employment that appeared to pose a conflict of interest.
Marcus said the actual reason for the firing was his public concern about the safety of fluoride and his appearances as an expert witness in legal cases, on his own time.
The case against him was launched at the behest of chemical companies, Marcus said, and he charged that EPA officials later lied and destroyed documents in the case.
Michael D. Kohn, general counsel of the National Whistleblower Center, called on the Justice Department to investigate the EPA’s actions. The center supported Marcus in his legal battle to get back to work and released copies of Reich’s decision on Thursday.
The last two years have been a major struggle, Marcus said, with the loss of medical insurance a particular problem because of his wife’s history of cancer.
Marcus said he has had to sell assets and depend on consulting work for income; one daughter had to postpone plans to go to medical school; vacations were no longer even considered; and he and his wife developed stress-related health problems.
Marcus maintained that his superiors at the EPA knew about his outside work and that his dismissal actually stemmed from a controversial internal memorandum he wrote in 1990 challenging the agency’s position on the health effects of fluoride.
When the memorandum was leaked to the press, it caused embarrassment to senior EPA officials, Marcus argued.
Clarke, the administrative law judge, agreed and said the dismissal violated federal whistleblower protection laws.
Clarke wrote that after Marcus’ fluoride memo became public he had to submit weekly activity reports, lost his right to routinely engage in outside work and was restricted to ″studying the least controversial chemicals.″ He also was prohibited from involvement in issues involving fluoride, said Clarke.