One of the most interesting sidebars that came out of Toyota's recent recall woes and the subsequent Congressional hearings on the subject was the Japanese automaker's relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Actually, the interesting part of the relationship with the regulatory body had more to do with the fact that Toyota hired former NHTSA employees who subsequently negotiated terms of safety investigations with former co-workers.

While current federal law prohibits an employee of the Executive branch from leaving a government post to represent a matter in the private sector in said employee's previous official area of responsibility, at least one former NHTSA executive feels tougher standards are in order. ABC News reports that Joan Claybrook (in pink, above), who ran NHTSA during the Carter administration, feels that the Obama administration needs to crack down on her former department because it's become too cozy with the auto industry it is tasked with overseeing.

In a prepared statement before her testimony in front of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, Claybrook said automakers including Toyota treat NHTSA "with contempt." But while some of her testimony will center on Toyota's dealings with the government agency, the former safety boss says she has found a total of 40 former NHTSA or Department of Transportation employees who currently work in the auto industry. Claybrook says all three domestic automakers as well as BMW, Honda, Suzuki and various trade associations all have ex-NHTSA or DOT employees on staff.

[Source: ABC News | Image: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty]