- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has filed two complaints for disciplinary action against Kansas City, Mo.-based Social Security Administration employees for sending politically partisan e-mail while on duty.

Catherine Deeds, OSC spokeswoman, said the separate complaints were filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on Jan. 14, accusing the employees of improperly taking part in activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group — a violation of the Hatch Act.

The employees, she said, have 30 days to respond to the board, which will investigate the accusations.

Ms. Deeds said one complaint charged that Michael Davis sent an e-mail message to 27 of his Social Security Administration co-workers while on duty and in his federal office building containing a widely circulated picture of President Bush in front of an American flag with the statement “I Vote the Bible.”

According to the complaint, the text of the message contained several statements in support of Mr. Bush, a negative statement about Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and a statement urging readers to “pass along the ‘I Vote the Bible’ button.”

Ms. Deeds said a similar complaint was filed against Leslye Sims, accusing her of sending an e-mail message to 22 persons while she was on duty and in her federal office building describing “Why am I supporting John Kerry for President?” She said the e-mail was presented as a letter that appears to be written by John Eisenhower, son of the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

According to the complaint, the e-mail contained several reasons why the reader should vote for Mr. Kerry and not support the Republican Party.

Similar complaints were filed in September when the OSC sought disciplinary action against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee Maureen Taylor-Glaze, who was accused of sending an e-mail message to 15 of her EPA co-workers containing a picture of actress Jane Fonda and Mr. Kerry at an anti-war rally. And U.S. Air Force civilian employee Donald Thompson was accused of sending an e-mail message titled, “George W.” to more than 70 recipients containing a document mimicking Mr. Bush’s resume and questioning his competence.

Those matters are still pending before the MSPB.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, in any room or building used for official duties by a person employed or holding office in the U.S. government, while wearing a uniform or official insignia identifying the office or position of the employee, or using any vehicle owned or leased by the government.

The OSC provides advisory opinions on the Hatch Act and also enforces the provisions of the act by filing petitions for disciplinary action. Employees who are charged with violations are entitled to a hearing before the MSPB. Under the act, the presumptive penalty for a violation is removal from federal employment.

However, on a unanimous vote of its members, the MSPB can mitigate the penalty to no less than a 30-day suspension without pay. Employees have the right to appeal the MSPB’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The OSC is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints and abuse of authority. Its primary mission is to safeguard the federal merit system by protecting employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing.

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