April 04, 2016
OSC Files Hatch Act Complaints with Merit Systems Protection Board
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel just issued a new press release on two complaints filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board seeking disciplinary action against federal employees for violating the Hatch Act’s candidacy restrictions.
You will find the press release at the following website: https://osc.gov/News/pr16-06.pdf
May 15, 2013
Sentencing postponed for Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel
The Washington Post reports: The legal case for Scott J. Bloch, the former head of the federal agency that protects government whistleblowers, continued Monday when a federal judge balked at proceeding with sentencing because of what he called an “improperly sanitized version of events.”
Bloch, the Bush-era head of the Office of Special Counsel, pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of destroying government property when he ordered the deletion of office computer files by private technicians.
Bloch admitted in 2010 that he had not given House investigators complete information about an incident in which he hired a company called Geeks on Call to scrub computers at the Office of Special Counsel. At the time, Bloch had been accused of retaliating against his staff and closing whistleblower cases without proper investigation. He has maintained that he was trying to deal with a computer virus.
Bloch was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail, but a federal judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because neither side in the case had been aware that the offense required a sentence of jail time.
April 12, 2012
OSC new Q&A on use of title
From the Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act (Apr. 12, 2012):
"Recently the Office of Special Counsel’s Hatch Act Unit has received several questions regarding whether a Cabinet secretary may use the title “Secretary” when engaged in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event. The following Q&A was written in response to those questions. It will be posted on [OSC's] website.
"Q: When engaging in political activity (i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group), such as speaking at a political campaign event, may a Cabinet secretary use the title “Secretary?”
"A: No. Hatch Act regulation states that an employee may not use his or her official title while participating in political activity. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302(b)(1). Accordingly, a Cabinet secretary may not use the official title “Secretary” when engaging in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event. However, a Cabinet secretary may use a general form of address, such as “The Honorable,” when engaging in political activity, as such address does not identify his or her position. 5 C.F.R. § 734.302, Example 1.
"... if you have any Hatch Act related questions, feel free to contact the Hatch Act Unit at 202-254-3650 or send an e-mail to Hatchact@osc.gov."
April 04, 2012
April 2012 IEC Presentation Materials: OSC Hatch Act Hot Topics
[UPDATED] Here are the handouts for this week's IEC presentation:
- Power Point Presentation: Download 2012 Hot Topics
- Updated OSC Social Media Hatch Act Guidance: Download Social Media and the Hatch Act 2012
- OSC Advisory Opinions:
Please print out and bring to the presentation.
UPDATED: OSC Social Media Hatch Act guidance
The updated guidance modifies OSC's position on Further Restricted employees Facebook activities.
"OSC now advises that, regardless of the employee’s privacy settings, the Hatch Act would not prohibit a further restricted employee from 'following' the Twitter account of a political party, partisan group, or partisan candidate’s campaign. Similarly, the Hatch Act would not prohibit a further restricted employee from becoming a 'friend' of or 'liking' a political party, partisan group, or candidate’s Facebook page. OSC does not view such activity as active participation in partisan political campaigning."
However, Further Restricted employee could violate the Hatch Act (by "active participation in partisan political campaigning") with posts and comments on these entities’ Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, and Facebook “share” or “re-share” or Twitter "re-tweets" from these entities.
See the updated guidance at: Download Social Media and the Hatch Act 2012
March 27, 2012
OSC Hatch Act press release
Two employees of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently served suspensions for sending partisan political e-mails while on duty and in the federal workplace. See full press release at http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2012/pr12_08ha.pdf
March 22, 2012
OSC Caseload Increasing
OSC head Carolyn Lerner told the Senate her budget is flat but her caseload is rising:
- OSC expects its overall caseload in fiscal 2012 will be 10 percent higher than last year.
- Waste, fraud and abuse whistleblower disclosures will likely be 32 percent higher this year than in fiscal 2011.
- OSC expects to see a 6 percent increase in prohibited personnel practice cases this year. In fiscal 2011, OSC received 2,583 cases, which itself was a record.
- Overall filings have jumped 30 percent over the last three years.
Via Federal Times.
March 18, 2012
Air Force Acts on OSC Mortuary Report
The Washington Post reports on the Air Force response to the recent OSC mortuary investigation:
The Air Force said Friday [March 16] it will impose harsher penalties on the former commander and chief deputy of the Dover Air Force Base mortuary after a federal probe found they retaliated against subordinates for reporting systematic problems there, including cases in which body parts were lost.
The Air Force declined to specify what action it will take against Col. Robert Edmondson, the former commander, and his civilian deputy, Trevor Dean, saying only that it had begun disciplinary proceedings that will last into next month. Previously, Edmondson had been issued a letter of reprimand; Dean had been placed in a lesser, non-supervisory position.
The announcement was made in response to an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that protects whistleblowers. The probe found that Edmondson, Dean and another supervisor had provided phony reasons to fire or punish four mortuary workers who had exposed problems there.
March 17, 2012
OSC Reports on Military Mortuary Whistleblowers
An Office of Special Counsel press release describes retaliation against military mortuary whistleblowers. Here's an excerpt:
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner also said the Air Force has committed to improving its internal investigation procedures and the way it remedies whistleblower retaliation claims. OSC applauds this effort.
“I am pleased the Air Force has agreed to take further disciplinary action and institute training to prevent whistleblower retaliation in the future,” Lerner said. “The Port Mortuary whistleblowers provided an important service to our country. They courageously stepped forward to report malfeasance and misconduct in the care of our fallen service members. Their actions have resulted in significant improvements at the Mortuary. The Office of Special Counsel will continue to work with government agencies to ensure that whistleblowers are protected from retaliation.”
March 02, 2012
POGO: Don't Cut Watchdog Budgets
Budget Cutting is in the air, no doubt, but POGO argues that where you cut matters a great deal:
As Congress reviews the Administration’s request, it should keep in mind that OSC—like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs)—provides a substantial return on taxpayers’ investment :
Four cases alone in just the past few years restored well over $11 million to the government. This amount, while substantial, grossly understates the financial benefit OSC brings to the government.
The real measure of OSC’s financial contribution is prophylactic: By providing a safe channel for whistleblower disclosures, OSC regularly reins in waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, and threats to public health and safety that pose the very real risk of catastrophic harm to the public, and huge remedial and liability costs for the government.
February 22, 2012
NPR Interview with OSC Head Lerner
NPR has a transcript of its January interview with Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counselt.
February 21, 2012
OSC Probes FDA E-mail Monitoring
Federal Times reports:
The Office of Special is investigating whether the Food and Drug Administration broke personnel rules by monitoring the personal emails of past and current employees who were whistle-blowers.
FDA has acknowledged it monitored emails between employees and congressional investigators and OSC "after the employees reported coercion to approve unsafe or harmful medical devices," OSC said in a statement Wednesday.
OSC said it received "new and troubling" allegations from current and former FDA employees that their managers retaliated against them and attempted to launch a criminal investigation.
OSC first opened an investigation into FDA's monitoring of employee emails several months ago, but two weeks ago it broadened that probe to examine whether the monitoring constituted improper retaliation against whistle-blowers, OSC spokeswoman Ann O'Hanlon said in an interview. "If we find that an agency committed a prohibited personnel practice we work to resolve that."
Edited Feb. 22 to correct typo.
February 07, 2012
OSC finds retailiation of whistleblowers in Air Force Mortuary case
See OSC's press release at: http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2012/pr12_01ppp.pdf.
Related news articles include:
- Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/dover-mortuary-whistleblowers-suffered-retaliation-say-investigators/2012/01/31/gIQA0VTNfQ_story.html
- POGO http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2012/02/top-whistleblower-cop-carolyn-lerner-recommends-punishment-for-retaliation-at-port-mortuary.html#tp
December 30, 2011
Praise for Active New OSC Chief
The Washington Post had a profile of new Office of Special Counsel head Carolyn Lerner. Here's an excerpt:
Since she took over the obscure investigative unit that reviews disclosures of government wrongdoing — and advocates for employees who are punished for reporting it — the employment and civil rights lawyer, 46, has shown a willingness to shake things up.
In several high-profile cases, Lerner has gone to the mat and tried to expand the boundaries of the law’s protections for whistleblowers. She has lifted long-sagging morale at an agency that, instead of behaving as an independent watchdog, has treaded water for much of its existence.
Lerner’s staff is tackling neglected cases, in contrast to her predecessor, whose office had thrown many out, and claims have shot up since she arrived, Lerner says. She has challenged judgments by the panel that decides civil service disputes. And she has called for wholesale changes to the law prohibiting politicking by public employees so local and state workers can run for office, even if their jobs are tied to federal funding.
November 30, 2011
NPR Story on Office of Special Counsel
National Public Radio has a positive story available about the turnaround at the Office of Special Counsel. Here's an excerpt:
If [new Special Counsel Carolyn] Lerner keeps up her recent pace, the office may not remain secret for much longer. She went public earlier this month with a report critical of personnel decisions by the Air Force. Lerner raised questions about whether the Air Force had inadequately disciplined managers at the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, where three whistle-blowers reported that remains of dead American service members had been mishandled.
"Because we're independent, we really can be an objective source for reviewing what the agency's internal investigations uncover and pointing out problems with those investigations," Lerner says. "If there are still questions that remain, we can raise them."
Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who's followed the office for decades, took note.
"By taking the position that she did, and making it clear she was not going to be a wallflower or someone who could just be walked over, but she would go toe-to-toe with the Air Force, she sent a very strong message that whistle-blowers would be protected," Katz says.
October 22, 2011
OSC Turnaound is Praised
The Washington Post's Federal Diary columnist observes that Scott Bloch left the Office of Special Counsel in bad shape, and praises the current incumbent for substantial improvements:
Carolyn Lerner gets the credit [for Office of Special Counsel reforms]. She was sworn in as special counsel in June.
Her “tenure is very young, but she hit the ground running and appears to be fearless,” said Thomas Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group.
She showed her determination “to rebuild the trust of all federal whistleblowers in OSC and our whistleblower protection program” with the announcement this month that her office asked the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to stay, or temporarily block, “serious adverse personnel actions” against two federal employees.
Stays were granted in those cases, plus another one in July. That’s just three, but they mark a significant increase for OSC. It won no stays from MSPB in 2008, 2009 or 2010. Under Lerner, the office has taken “a great step forward,” said Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center. “The office had been stagnant for 10 years.”
October 18, 2011
New OSC Advisories
The Office of Special Counsel has new advisories on briefings and mixed travel:
- 10/6/11 Advisory on Briefings
- 10/6/11 Advisory on Mixed Travel
October 13, 2011
OSC Seeks Quick Relief for Two Whistleblowers
An Office of Special Counsel press release reports on OSC's efforts to seek stays of adverse actions proposed against whistleblowers. The press release notes:
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner stated that “these cases concern serious threats to public health and safety, and raise important issues of law. OSC’s actions make clear that this agency will vigorously protect federal employees against retaliation when they blow the whistle.” Ms. Lerner recently completed her first 100 days at the helm of the Office of Special Counsel.
POGO has additional comments.
October 10, 2011
OSC Proposes Hatch Act Changes
The Office of Special Counsel has proposed legislative changes to the Hatch Act, including adding graduated penalty options to the only choices are not firing or 30 day suspension.
September 20, 2011
MSPB: Perceptions of prohibited personnel actions hit 18-year low -- GovExec.com
A Merit Systems Protection Board study, released Wednesday, found that federal workers reported that they observed or experienced the 12 prohibited personnel practices less frequently than at any point during the last 18 years. In a survey of more than 42,000 employees, 8 percent said they had been affected by one prohibited practice, while 1.3 percent said they had experienced more than three.
Perceptions of discrimination based on age, race, disability and other factors have steadily declined since 1992, the report found. Experiences of coercion related to political activity were slightly more common than 18 years ago but still were rare at just 0.7 percent. Nearly 7 percent of employees reported perceptions that management had granted an unfair advantage during the recruitment or promotion process, higher than other practices studied but lower than in previous years.
September 10, 2011
Planning Website Upgrades: OSC & Beyond
The OSC website should be a key resource for all potential and current federal whistleblowers, and should promote and demonstrate transparency, openness, and accountability. Further, it must be dynamic, easily navigable, straightforward, well-organized and aesthetically helpful in directing people to information quickly. But it falls short in many of these areas.
Recurring themes of functionality issues included out-of-date information, difficult navigation, an absence of document organization and transparency, and a lack of social media presence.
The Office of Special Counsel is a unique agency, but many agency ethics websites could benefit by the application of similar rules.
August 18, 2011
OSC: Dept. of Energy Mistreated Whistleblower
An Office of Special Counsel press release alleges that the Department of Energy violated a whistleblower's rights by suspending him for 13 months. Here's an excerpt:
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu has agreed to change his agency’s internal policies and regulations in response to an Office of Special Counsel investigative report finding DOE committed prohibited personnel practices against Stephen Patrick, a nuclear materials courier and a federal agent at DOE’s Oak Ridge, Tennessee, facility. Mr. Patrick was twice suspended when his managers revoked his certification to work with nuclear materials under the Department’s Human Reliability Program (HRP). ...
On August 2, 2011, DOE informed OSC that while it disagreed with OSC’s conclusion that it had violated Mr. Patrick’s due process rights, it was rescinding its policy of mandatory indefinite suspensions when an HRP certification is revoked. Instead, DOE agents like Mr. Patrick will be placed on administrative leave pending the completion of their internal appeals. Furthermore, a DOE working group is drafting regulatory changes to expedite the internal appeals process to avoid lengthy delays, like the 13 months that passed between the revocation decision in Mr. Patrick’s case and the resolution of his appeal.
August 04, 2011
Scott Bloch Sentence Reversed
Talking Points Memo reports that the District Court rescinded Scott Bloch's one month prison term. According to District Court Judge Lamberth:
That said, the Court finds it surprising that none of the attorneys in this case--neither those for the government, nor those for defendant--questioned such precedent upon reading the statute. This is, at bottom, a situation in which lawyering has fallen short. Again, however, the relevant question is what defendant believed when he pled guilty, however inexplicable that belief.
July 22, 2011
Special Counsel Announces Settlement of U.S. Customs Case
The OSC press release concerning this whistleblower reprisal case is available. Here is an excerpt:
In a series of whistleblower disclosures to OSC from 2005 to 2007, Mr. Downey revealed compelling evidence of misconduct, management neglect, and abuses of overtime pay at Blaine Sector. Investigations initiated by OSC of Mr. Downey’s disclosures substantiated many of his allegations.
Mr. Downey also alleged that he was retaliated against after he disclosed the wrongdoing, and OSC’s investigation substantiated his claim. Specifically, OSC found a pattern of illegal retaliation including: retaliatory investigations that led to a proposed decision to fire Mr. Downey; a suspension; an indefinite transfer to another border patrol station; a reprimand; the removal of his supervisory duties; and a failure to promote him despite a favorable recommendation from his supervisor.
July 21, 2011
News items of interest:
- State Dept. contracting officer under investigation for steering $52M of contracts to her secret husband. See full article from Daily Caller at http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/19/state-dept-contract-officer-steers-52-million-to-secret-husband-daughter/.
- MSPB upholds removal of DHS Senior Special Agent, after he failed to establish whistleblower affirmative defense for (1) unauthorized queries of individuals on an official government computer database; (2) unauthorized disclosure; (3) misuse of position; and (4) lack of candor. See MSPB opinion at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=618847&version=620720&application=ACROBAT.
- MSPB dismissal of OSC case to remove an employee for violation of the Hatch Act is upheld. OSC failed to comply with Board rules to state "with particularity any alleged violations of law or regulation, along with the supporting facts." However, OSC may bring a new complaint. See MSPB opinion at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=621454&version=623336&application=ACROBAT
July 06, 2011
MSBP Grants Stay of Firing of Alleged Whistleblower
Here's the opening of a July 6 press release at the OSC website:
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced that her office obtained a July 5 order from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) that stays the firing of federal whistleblower David Butterfield so that OSC may have time to investigate the matter. Agent Butterfield is an air interdiction pilot with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection agency in San Diego, California. In 2007, Butterfield disclosed to the agency’s Office of Inspector General that his fourth level supervisor had compromised a potential internal affairs investigation by secretly tipping off Butterfield to the fact that Butterfield was the subject of an ongoing internal affairs investigation. Upon advice of his personal attorney, Butterfield reported his supervisor’s actions to DHS authorities, who in turn investigated the matter.
May 12, 2011
Former OSC Chief LawsuitAl Kamen's In The Loop column discusses former Office of Special Counsel Chief Scott Bloch's $202 million RICO lawsuit against multiple defendants, including Karl Rove, Tom Davis and multiple other defendants, including the Government Accountability Project, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Project on Government Oversight.
Courthouse News Service has the 63 page complaint.
April 18, 2011
Lerner Confirmed to Lead OSC
An Office of Special Counsel press release advises that last week "the Senate confirmed Carolyn N. Lerner to the position of Special Counsel of OSC. Ms. Lerner, a partner at the Washington, D.C. employment law firm Heller, Huron, Chertkof, Lerner, Simon & Salzman, will join OSC for a five-year term."
April 06, 2011
New OSC Guidance on Displaying Presidential Photos in the Federal Workplace
Because President Obama has declared his candidacy for 2012, the Office of Special Counsel issued guidance concerning the display of Presidential photographs in the federal workplace. OSC advised that those with questions should contact the Hatch Act Unit at 202-254-3650 or Hatchact@osc.gov.
March 31, 2011
Bloch Sentenced to One Month
March 16, 2011
OSC Nominee Testimony
In less than an hour of testimony, Lerner laid out an ambitious agenda to reform the reputation of OSC among federal employees and watchdog groups. The office's credibility took a major hit when Scott Bloch ran it from 2004 through 2008 amid allegations that the special counsel himself had retaliated against whistleblowers inside his office.
"Restoring and improving the reputation of the agency is an important goal for me," Lerner said.
March 01, 2011
OSC seeks removal for Hatch Act violation
On 17 Feb 11, the OSC issued a one-page press release seeking removal of a DOJ attorney for acceptance of partisan political contributions from a subordinate. See press release at: http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2011/pr11_04ha.pdf
On 17 Feb 11, the OSC issued a one-page press release seeking removal of a DOJ attorney for acceptance of partisan political contributions from a subordinate. See press release at: http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2011/pr11_04ha.pdf
February 25, 2011
DOJ Position on OSC Head Sentencing
Some people are quite displeased with the Department of Justice position on sentencing of former OSC head Scott Bloch:
The Department of Justice has literally teamed up with Scott Bloch-who previously plead guilty to blowing off Congress--to try to help him avoid any jail time, at any cost to credibility, for that crime. The extent of this collusion first became apparent in a ruling dated February 2, 2011 by Federal Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson, who is handling the matter.
February 10, 2011
OSC reconciles guidance on use of bumper stickers on personal vehicles
The Hatch Act does not prohibit a federal employee from placing a partisan political sign or bumper sticker on his or her privately owned vehicle and parking it in a federal parking lot or facility. OSC confirms that a federal employee would not violate the Hatch Act if he has one bumper sticker for candidate A and another for candidate B on his private vehicle. However, OSC will find a violation where the federal employee’s partisan political materials display, including bumper stickers, makes the vehicle appear to be a campaign mobile. Download 2011 OSC Bumper Sticker Opinion and Download 2011 OSC Petition for Reulmaking (Bumberstickers).
- OSC May 2008 Opinion http://www.osc.gov/documents/hatchact/federal/Commerce%20AO.pdf
- OSC Jan. 2007 Opinion http://www.osc.gov/documents/hatchact/federal/Nat'l%20Guard;%20uniform,%20car,%20bumper%20sticker.pdf
- OSC Oct. 1996 Opinion http://www.osc.gov/documents/hatchact/federal/oldfha-07.htm
February 08, 2011
OSC on Freedom of Speech for Government Employee
An Office of Special Counsel press release discusses a case involving freedom of speech issues. Thanks to Mark Stone for the tip.
February 03, 2011
Former OSC Head Facing Jail Time?
BLT (Blog of Legal Times) reports:
Scott Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Counsel, must serve at least one month in prison on the charge of lying to Congress, a federal magistrate judge in Washington said in a ruling published Wednesday evening.
January 25, 2011
OSC found Bush Administration Officials violated the Hatch Act
OSC's report found the Office of Political Affairs acted more like a campaign office than an advisory office for the President, when it conducted political briefings for agency political appointees during work hours and in the Federal workplace. OSC's investigation expanded to review other Hatch Act violations including improper classification of political travel as "official" and failure to seek reimbursement from political appointees for this political travel. See OSC report http://www.osc.gov/documents/hatchact/STF%20Report%20Final.pdf
See also GovExec article http://blogs.govexec.com/fedblog/ and Politico article http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=601ACD52-7F25-4233-9CEB-78676900A53E.
January 14, 2011
More on Park Police Chief Reinstatement
Joe Davidson, the Washington Post's Federal Diary columnist, has additional views on the whistleblower reinstatement story reported here Wednesday in a column entitled "A victory for former Park Police chief might not be a victory for whistleblowers":
PEER's executive director, Jeff Ruch [was] of course, delighted with the decision. "A resounding victory," Ruch called it. "It was a 'wow' decision that I think is unappealable." But he warned against overstating its importance. Ruch, who made the "false beacon" remark, said other whistleblowers, in less prominent cases with fewer resources, are unlikely to prevail. "She and her husband basically put together a resistance movement," Ruch added, "and we became her guerrilla army."
December 15, 2010
Nominee for OSC Chief
August 12, 2010
IEC Presentation Materials - OSC on Hatch Act (Aug 2010)
As promised at today's IEC meeting, here are the materials from the Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act presentation. Most notably:
- SUBSCRIBE TODAY! OSC now has a Hatch Act listserve. You can subscribe by going to listserv.osc.gov (or to skip a couple pages, go to listserv.osc.gov/scripts/wa-osc.exe?SUBED1=HATCHACT&A=1). Once you submit your email address remember that you must verify your email address to complete subscription. This will arrive as a confirmation email with a hyperlink.
- OSC updated handouts:
- Power Point Presentaiton Handout Download OSC Power Point on Hatch Act & Social Media (8-10)
- Handout on Displaying Photos in the Office Download OSC Can Feds display Presid Photos in office (8-12-10)
- Updated FAQ Regarding Social Media & the Hatch Act Download OSC FAQ on Social Media (2010-08-10) UPDATED
- Links to some of the cited OSC cases:
Special Counsel v. Pattie Ware: http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=505805&version=507249&application=ACROBAT
Special Counsel v. Phillip Mark: http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=520350&version=521812&application=ACROBAT
Special Counsel v. Paula Acconcia: http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=289570&version=289913&application=ACROBAT
July 25, 2010
Hatch Act FAQ List UpdatedThe ever-alert Mark Stone advises that the Office of Special Counsel updated its list of Hatch Act FAQs ("Frequently Asked Questions") on July 19.
July 23, 2010
Watchdog Groups Object to Probation for Former OSC ChiefWatchdog groups are arguing that probation is too light a sentence for former Office of Special Counsel chief Scott Bloch. A letter by Debra Katz to the magistrate who accepted Mr. Bloch's guilty plea to criminal contempt of Congress is available at the Legal Times website. The Washington Post also had a story about the matter.
May 25, 2010
Two suspended for aiding & abetting prohibited personnel practice
Two Coast Guard human resources specialists were suspended for aiding and abetting in an officer commit a prohibited personnel practice, in the form of creating a job description that only one person could meet (giving preferential advantage and misusing of their positions).
See Office of Special Counsel press release at http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2010/pr10_13.pdf.
April 28, 2010
Former OSC Head Pleads Guilty
Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel, pled guilty on Tuesday to one misdemeanor count of contempt of Congress. A PDF copy of the plea agreement is available:
April 25, 2010
Former Special Counsel Faces Criminal ChargeThe Associated Press reports:
Former U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch withheld information from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the Bush administration, according to a two-page filing in federal court by the U.S. attorney's office here.
The charging papers filed in the case are known as an "information" and ordinarily signify that a defendant is preparing to enter a guilty plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Bloch had been under investigation for allegedly retaliating against his own employees.
Talking Points Memo has a statement from Mr. Bloch's attorney. An earlier National Law Journal article examined the efforts of the Office of Special Counsel to deal with the aftereffects of Bloch's tenure.
March 03, 2010
OSC Brings Hatch Act Enforcement Action Against GSA Employee
Today's press release at the OSC website announces the decision to seek disciplinary action for an alleged Hatch Act violation:
An investigation conducted by OSC found evidence that the GSA employee engaged in prohibited political activity, including soliciting political contributions and e-mailing promotional material in association with the 2008 Presidential election. The e-mails were sent to other federal employees and federal contractors and, among other things, included information about volunteer opportunities for then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign. The GSA employee engaged in this activity while on duty and while in a government building.
Thus, OSC’s investigation found evidence that the GSA employee violated three Hatch Act prohibitions – the prohibition against soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions from any person, the prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty, and the prohibition against engaging in political activity while in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed in the Government of the United States. Accordingly, OSC has filed a complaint with the MSPB, seeking disciplinary action with respect to the GSA employee for knowingly violating the Hatch Act.
January 27, 2010
Office of Special Counsel DevelopmentsThe Office of Special Counsel has completely revamped its web site. Of special interest: the expanded list of Frequently Asked Questions about the Hatch Act.
More news: The OSC settled what is believed to be a particularly significant Hatch Act case (reported here earlier when OSC filed the complaint). The case involved a DIA supervisor's attempt to influence subordinates' votes in the 2008 Presidential election.Finally, OSC has also filed complaints for disciplinary action against three more federal employees. Here are links to those press releases:
August 10, 2009
The Office of Special Counsel has posted several new press releases at its website, on topics including but not limited to the following:
PR09_11-- A Hatch Act complaint about a supervisor at DIA attempting to influence his employees in the 2008 Presidential election.
PR09_10-- An OSC finding that the Department of Transportation was derelict in failing to respond to aviation safety allegations.
PR09_09-- A Hatch Act complaint against a USPS employee for running in a partisan political election last fall.
PR09_06-- A Hatch Act complaint against a VA doctor for using his position to influence the 2008 Presidential election.
April 26, 2009
OSC Charges Two With Sending Politial Advocacy E-mails
An Office of Special Counsel press release describes misuse of e-mail charges against two federal employees, as follows:
One employee, while on duty, at work and using his official title, disseminated an e-mail that requested political contributions for then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama. The other employee, while at work and on duty, distributed an e-mail that encouraged recipients, including employees she managed, not to support then-Presidential candidate Obama.
Thanks to the ever-alert Mark Stone (registration required) for the tip.
November 03, 2008
Challenges for Office of Special Counsel
In a Government Executive article, former Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan outlines some of the challenges facing the Office of Special Counsel in the wake of the recent departure of Scott Bloch:
"We think that the next administration really should pay a lot of attention to the agency because it has the potential to do a lot of really good and important stuff," said Elaine Kaplan, who ran OSC from 1998 to 2003 and now serves as senior deputy general counsel of the National Treasury Employees Union. "And in spite of the fact that there have been a lot of problems there during the past five years and that there has been a lot of turmoil, I still think it's entirely possible that this place can be turned around."
That job won't be easy though, she said, noting that Bloch's successor "will have a lot of rebuilding to do."