The House Banking Committee chairman has told President Bush that thrift regulator and former Utahn M. Danny Wall should step aside, prompting charges from Wall's defenders that the panel is trying to make the regulator a scapegoat.

Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, told Bush that his committee, in its investigation of the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan Association of Irvine, Calif., has heard "startling evidence" that Wall blocked efforts by field examiners to collect evidence of misconduct by Lincoln officials.Also, Gonzalez said that Wall, by insisting on reviewing in advance the testimony of his subordinates in the Office of Thrift Supervision, is hampering the panel's efforts to gather evidence.

The committee is scheduled to hear from 10 thrift examiners from around the country who were assembled by Wall to review the work of the agency's San Francisco office.

"In view of your commitment to not let those responsible for these costly failures remain in positions of authority in your administration, I believe it would be reassuring to the American taxpayers who have been asked to pay for this regulatory failure if Mr. Wall steps aside," Gonzalez said in a letter to Bush dated Friday and released by the committee on Monday.

Karl Hoyle, a spokesman for the thrift agency, said the suggestion that Wall resign was "inappropriate" and Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, for whom Wall once worked as chief aide, said it was "uncalled for."

"Obviously Rep. Gonzalez is looking for a scapegoat on which to place the blame" for the S&L bailout, Garn, the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement.

Gonzalez' panel has conducted two hearings on Lincoln, Oct. 17 and 26, and has two others scheduled.

"We've been unable to get the other side of the story told," Hoyle said. "Dan Wall, like anybody else in this country, is entitled to due process. Quite candidly, I think there's a very fine line between investigation and prosecution."