WASHINGTON-In a surprise move, the Rubber Manufacturers Association has laid off Eric L. Bolton, director of the Tire Industry Safety Council, and promoted TISC Deputy Director Kristen Karczewski to the directorship. Ms. Karczewski will take over as TISC director April 1, with Mr. Bolton remaining as a part-time consultant until Sept. 30, the end of the RMA's fiscal year.
In a prepared statement, RMA President Thomas E. Cole praised Mr. Bolton's ``professionalism and dedication'' and said he was ``a great asset to the council.'' Mr. Cole was unavailable to comment on TISC's reorganization.
According to all sources, the reasons behind the move were strictly budgetary.
The RMA Public Relations Committee, which works closely with TISC, was not consulted about Mr. Bolton's dismissal, according to Art Bakaitis, manager of marketing services at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. ``...I understand budgetary considerations were the primary motivation,'' Mr. Bakaitis said.
Founded in 1969, TISC was intended to counter the tire defect allegations of federal legislators and consumer safety advocates. Under founding director Frank Holeman and his successor Edward I. Lewis, the council became well known as a defender of the tire industry's safety record in Washington.
The council still publishes a Washington newsletter, but its political role was de-emphasized as the legislative threat to the industry diminished. By the time Mr. Bolton joined the council in March 1991, its role had become chiefly to disseminate information on tire safety to the nation's news media.
``Frankly, I have a real concern that there could be a void created in providing the public with the important safety information TISC has provided for decades,'' said John Perduyn, Goodyear vice president of public affairs.
Mr. Bolton said he understood the motivation behind the TISC reorganization. ``The industry is under pressure to operate more efficiently, and it expects its associations in Washington to do the same thing,'' he said.
Ms. Karczewski joined TISC in March 1989. With the reorganization, she becomes the council's only full-time employee.