National Credit Union Administration director Robert Swan last week rejected White House entreaties to step down.
The Clinton administration last week asked Mr. Swan - whose six-year term expired in August - to step aside so its nominee to succeed him could fill the seat on an interim basis.
In an interview, Mr. Swan said he rejected the request as a matter of conscience.
"I had made a commitment to literally thousands of credit union people that I would stay until replaced because there are a lot of things on the table," Mr. Swan said. "People are hopeful that someone familiar with the past history would be there."
White House spokeswoman Peggy Louis wouldn't comment on the administration's pitch.
"I can only say to you that his term expired in August 1995 and the President nominated Yolanda Townsend Wheat," Ms. Louis said.
Agency observers saw two forces at work behind the administration request.
Because the Senate did not meet from Jan. 10 through Jan. 22, President Clinton could have appointed Ms. Wheat, a Washington lawyer, to the board on an interim basis if Mr. Swan had agreed to step down. Ms. Wheat - who declined to be interviewed - still would have needed Senate confirmation. But the "recess appointment" would have allowed her to start working at the agency.
Mr. Swan said a NCUA board seat had never been filled in such a manner. "I didn't know if I wanted to be a part of something like that," he said.
Industry and agency sources saw other hands at work: Those of the NCUA's chairman, Norman E. D'Amours, and its executive director, Karl Hoyle.
Mr. Swan and Mr. D'Amours have been at odds virtually since the chairman took office in November 1993. Mr. Swan, a former credit union official, has voted against agency regulations backed by Mr. D'Amours and criticized agency actions, such as last year's seizure of Capital Corporate Federal Credit Union.
Agency and industry sources suggested that Mr. D'Amours and Mr. Hoyle lobbied the White House to get Mr. Swan out of the way.
Mr. Hoyle vehemently denied the notion.
"This is a matter between the White House, Mr. Swan, Ms. Wheat, and the Senate," Mr. Hoyle said.
Mr. Swan has long claimed that Mr. Hoyle and Mr. D'Amours have sought to keep him out of the loop on agency matters. In November he was angered to discover that he needed Mr. Hoyle's approval to obtain records of the agency panel that oversaw the conservatorship of Cap Corp.
"I tried to get some information and got a memo from the general counsel's office that said anything relating to Cap Corp could not be given to any employee or director" without Mr. Hoyle's approval, Mr. Swan said.
Mr. Swan said he wanted to find out about the decision-making by the four-member conservatorship panel. The panel sold off the Lanham, Md., corporate's devalued mortgage securities and in April arranged a purchase and assumption agreement with Mid-Atlantic Corporate Federal Credit Union, Harrisburg, Pa.
The conservatorship board consisted of Mr. Hoyle; H. Allen Carver, director of the Office of Corporate Credit Unions; David Marquis, director of the Office of Examination and Insurance; and Leonard Skiles, president of the Asset Liquidation Management Center.
"All I wanted to know was what went on during the decision-making process to put Cap Corp into liquidation," Mr. Swan said. "I've had interest in it since the day they did it, and I've been stonewalled that long.
Mr. Swan said he has not tried to get the documents through Mr. Hoyle.
Agency observers said Mr. Hoyle is concerned that if Mr. Swan were to get the documents he might leak them to Pentagon Federal Credit Union. The Alexandria, Va., institution lost $1 million in the liquidation of Cap Corp and has sued to obtain those records because it believes the agency acted prematurely in shuttering the corporate.
Mr. Hoyle said he received permission from Mr. D'Amours to be the gatekeeper of the Cap Corp documents because of the issue's sensitivity.
Asked if he would turn over materials to Mr. Swan if asked, he said: "I wouldn't know until he asked. It would depend on what it was and what it was for."