CSB Chair Vanessa Sutherland announced her resignation today. She gave no reason.

Sutherland had more than two years left in her 5-year term.

Spending more time with her family? Forced to resign by an evil chemical industry cabal? A job offer that she couldn’t refuse?

Who knows? If you have any good gossip, you know where to find me.



8 thoughts on “CSB Chair Vanessa Sutherland Resigns”
  1. That’s a real shame, especially with the latest chemical catastrophe investigation just starting. Wonder if one is connected to the other? I thought highly of Vanessa while she was at the Pipeline office, and hoped she was bringing stability to the CSB at a time when Trump seeks to eliminate it.

  2. It’s both surprising and not surprising. Sutherland hates some of her fellow Board Members and several of the staff. Today another investigator resigned. Since January 1, 2018 the CSB has lost 5 investigators out of 18. When Sutherland started, the CSB had 19 investigators, and now we will be down to 13. She makes the prior Chair look like a diplomat when it come to staff turnover. Worse yet: The prior Chair hired more staff than the number who left. Sutherland has not hired a single investigator since she was appointed in August 2015.

    Sutherland is the classic political manager. She cares only about her image and reputation. She could care less about the staff, and even less about the mission. The CSB is in tatters, and Sutherland bears bears more than a little responsibility, although to be fair, two of her fellow Board Members have also helped destroy the agency. The only “winners” here are the chemical and oil industries, which have brought the CSB to heel.

    1. Sounds like sour grapes… My experience with Vanessa Sutherland has always been positive, one of great mutual respect. Vanessa brought civility, transparency, and most importantly integrity back to the CSB. An agency that was descending into the abyss was brought back into the light by Vanessa’s leadership. I don’t know much about your in house politics, but from the investigators to the board members, I have the greatest respect for them and your mission. But from the outside, it is believed she salvaged your agency’s reputation and quite possibly your agency itself.

  3. PHMSA was bolstered by stakeholders like you Adele.
    Someone was thoughtful enough to send the blog link to me. If anyone wants to use the limited hours we are granted each day for more than petty or good gossip, in a world where civility has clearly died, feel free to just ask me directly. I’m quite available and visible. It will certainly be more satisfying to your curiosity than substituting the musings of those who never contact me.

    1. Touché. You’re right Vanessa, and I apologize for my poor choice of words. “Information” would have been a much better choice than “gossip.” But the world would like to know more about your decision. These are crazy times with people in high levels of government doing crazy things, so there’s a natural curiosity (and some suspicion) when people resign abruptly.
      In any case, it’s been a pleasure working with you while I was at OSHA and after and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

  4. I’ll bite.

    Chairperson Sutherland,

    1. Why are you resigning?

    2. How are you okay with the CSB’s misleading presentation of its recommendation statistics? It is deceptive to highlight number of recommendations open vs. number of recommendations closed, as the huge chart on CSB’s “recommendations” webpage does. (Why? Because it says nothing. One possible “closed” disposition is “Closed – Unacceptable Action/No Response Received.”)

    3. Do you agree with the following statement? –> CSB outsources the majority of many of its investigations to outside contractors.

    4. Do you agree with the following statement? –> Many of CSB’s largest dollar value contracts have been awarded without fair competition.


    a. $286,000 to ABSG Consulting for “Investigation Support Services (Blast Modeling and Explosion Analysis) For West Fertilizer Investigation.” (Doesn’t CSB have engineers on staff?) Contract is claimed to have been awarded with “full and open competition” however it was not posted to FedBizOpps and only a single offer was received.
    b. $180,000 to Engineering Services GP LLC, for a not competed, single source contract “BP Deepwater Investigation Support Services (Blowout Preventer Expertise)” (Also, it seems like a strange to conduct an investigation by hiring someone with a specialty such as “Blowout Preventer Expertise” as that essentially means that a conclusion has been reached at the beginning.)
    c. Pemy Consulting, $48,000. One source, not competed “Storage Tank Expert”
    d. Curtis L. Schuhmacher, $148,000. Assigned the category of “Inherently Governmental Functions”… except one payment, where he is actually identified as an “Ammonium Nitrate Consultant.” (Only one source. Not competed.)

    4. Rather than ask about the many millions of dollars awarded to Sandy Gilmour, who is listed variously as a public relations firm, CSB’s public affairs contact, CSB’s video producer, and – remarkably – a representative of CSB who deployed to an accident site (“For more information contact Sandy Gilmour Communications on scene at…”) — instead I have two related questions:

    (a) Does it bother you that CSB’s main activity has been self-promotion and publicity rather than organizational development?

    (b) How is it that hiring a public relations firm – where part of the contract included one-on-one instruction to organizational leadership – does not violate 5 U.S. Code § 3107 – Employment of publicity experts; restrictions “Appropriated funds may not be used to pay a publicity expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose.”

    5. Why is there an advertisement for the contractor who redesigned CSB’s website prominently posted at the bottom of every single page? That is illegal.

    6. Also at the bottom of every page on CSB’s website is the following text: “© U.S. Chemical Safety Board. All Rights Reserved.” I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Surely the Board is aware that pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 105, “Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government.”

    That is just the beginning of the questions I have, but I don’t want to overwhelm you right out the gate. I appreciate your invitation to ask you questions directly and look forward to what I hope will be your candid response.

    Some questions for “CSB Staff” who commented above, if you don’t mind:

    At the following link you will find CSB’s online directory: www.csb.gov/about-the-csb/csb-directory/)

    1. How many of the employees within CSB’s Office of Investigations are attorneys? How on earth did that happen? (Are they qualified as investigators, or is that a fiction?)

    2. What are your thoughts on, and/or your answers to the questions I posed to Ms. Sutherland?

    3. Does CSB have its own scientific laboratory of any sort?

    4. Are CSB employees aware of the volume and nature of the adverse oversight findings by EPA’s inspector general, the GAO, etc?

    5. Is it accurate that Shauna Lawhorne, who, in addition to the title “Video Producer and Public Affairs Specialist” is listed as Director of CSB’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, was really just an employee of Sandy Gilmour who was hired as a video editor? (See christineherman.weebly.com/career-profiles/chemist-turned-video-producer-for-the-us-chemical-safety-board)

    6. Can you get me a copy of Board Order #40? My secure email address is contacthenews@protonmail.com.

    7. I only started looking into CSB recently. If you are willing to tell more of your story, I want to know what CSB is like from an employee’s perspective. Have you seen or experienced retaliation at CSB? Please email me (contactthenews@protonmail.com). You don’t have to give your name and I will not reveal anything about you publicly. (I may, however, publish whatever compelling not-yet-told stories I find about CSB.)

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