Browsing: Office of Special Counsel

Former Office of Special Counsel Director Scott Bloch sentenced

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It appears that the labyrinthine legal saga of Scott Bloch is over. Bloch, the former head of the government’s whistleblower protection office who once stood accused (incorrectly, he said) of retaliating against whistleblowers, was sentenced yesterday for having files erased from government computers, according to The Washington Post. Bloch’s lawyer, William Sullivan, confirmed the terms of the sentence to FedLine today: Two years probation, a $5,000 fine, 200 hours community service, and–as a special condition of Bloch’s probation–one day in prison to be served at a facility in the Eastern District of Virginia. The Post has a succinct wrap-up of the case; for anyone…

Legislation tweaking Hatch Act goes to White House

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The Merit Systems Protection Board would be able to mete out a wider range of punishments for Hatch Act violators under a bill that won final congressional approval today and now goes to President Obama for his signature. Instead of firing violators–the only authorized penalty up to now unless the board unanimously opts for a different route–the MSPB  could issue formal reprimands; reduce violators’ pay grades; bar them from federal employment for up to five years; or fine them up to $1,000. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, sponsored the bill in the Senate; Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., handled it in the…

Special Counsel warns against targeted monitoring of whistleblowers

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The U.S. Special Counsel on Wednesday warned that agencies could be reprimanded for targeting whistleblowers and monitoring emails that report wrongdoing. In the memo, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said that targeting emails between whistleblowers and the OSC or inspectors general for surveillance is “highly problematic.” Agencies that deliberately target whistleblowers’ submissions or draft submissions to OSC or IGs could be accused of retaliating against the employees, Lerner said. “This is the first finding that we are aware of in which a government agency has stated that there are limits on how federal agencies can monitor employee email,” Stephen Kohn, executive…

Hatch Act photo restrictions in force as campaign season begins

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Attention, feds: Those cubicle photos, work computer screensavers and other shots of President Obama may have to go now that he’s formally seeking a second term. Under the Hatch Act, federal employees are generally barred from displaying workplace pictures of partisan political candidates, the Office of Special Counsel says in an advisory opinion issued after Obama announced his re-election bid earlier this month. There are just two exceptions. The first involves the standard portrait photo and other official pictures of the President meeting heads of states or conducting other official business (no adding halos or horns, however, the OSC warns).…

OSC issues Hatch Act reminder

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Yes, political passions are at fever pitch this election season, but federal workers are risking their jobs if they cross in the line into activity banned by the Hatch Act, the Office of Special Counsel warns in a news release. The agency is responsible for enforcement of the act, which generally bars partisan politicking on government time. As evidence, the agency cites two cases that it took to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Both involved workers who in 2008 sent fund-raising e-mails while at work on behalf of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. In one of those cases, involving an IRS…

Former U.S. special counsel charged with contempt

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Scott Bloch, who led the Office of Special Counsel during the Bush administration, was charged with criminal contempt of Congress on Thursday, Reuters reports. Bloch was forced out of office  in October 2008 after a tumultuous term that culminated in FBI agents raiding his office and home. They were searching for evidence that he obstructed justice during a federal investigation into whether he retaliated against employees who disagreed with how he managed the agency, which is charged with protecting federal whistleblowers and other employees from retaliation. Bloch was widely suspected of having his computer wiped clean of files that may…

One year later, no special counsel

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Something I’ve been wondering lately, both because Barack Obama the presidential candidate said a lot of good things about whistleblowers, and because I spent a not-inconsequential part of 2008 reporting on Scott Bloch: Why hasn’t the White House appointed a new special counsel? I know President Barack Obama still has hundreds of positions to fill. But the top job at the Office of Special Counsel would seem to be an important one. The agency hasn’t had political leadership since October 2008, when the Bush administration forced Bloch to resign. OSC employees I’ve talked to generally say the agency needs some…

Your donations, Bloch's defense

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Can’t find a worthy charity in the Combined Federal Campaign? Send a check to the Scott Bloch Legal Defense Trust! (Donations are not tax-deductible, sorry.) The recently-retired special counsel is looking for help to defray his mounting legal costs. Bloch was forced out of office last week, an event that capped years of controversy surrounding his tenure, but still faces an ongoing grand jury investigation. The Web site includes praise for Bloch from a number of conservative luminaries, including Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Noticeably absent is any praise…

Not waiting until Jan. 5, after all

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On Monday, Scott Bloch announced he planned to resign on Jan. 5, the scheduled end of his term. Today, apparently, the White House decided that wasn’t soon enough. Bloch was called to 1600 Pennsylvania for a meeting this morning and was dismissed from the agency, according to sources. OSC is holding an all-hands meeting right now so Bloch can break the news. More details as they come… Update: Sources say the Federal Protective Service prevented Bloch from re-entering the agency’s M Street offices after his meeting at the White House. Update II: Background on the strange case of Scott Bloch.…

Scott Bloch's resignation letter

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As we’re reporting on the Federal Times Web site, Special Counsel Scott Bloch announced his resignation — he’s leaving office on Jan. 5, the scheduled end of his five-year term. He made the announcement in a letter to the president (pdf) earlier today. Bloch had the option to stay for one more year (or until the Senate confirms the next special counsel, whichever comes first), but he declined to stick around. Bloch’s announcement is true to his word from an interview two months ago, when I asked Bloch about the increasingly vocal calls for his resignation: But when asked about…