Employees at the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates accusations that employee rights have been violated and protects whistleblowers, have filed a complaint accusing the agency itself of illegal gag orders, cronyism, discrimination and retaliation.
The unidentified employees, whose complaint was filed yesterday with OSC by three whistleblower-protection organizations, have called for an independent investigation, saying they want Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch, a Bush administration appointee who heads the agency, to recuse himself and refer the matter to an outside body.
“Scott Bloch as special counsel is like discovering your fire chief is a closet arsonist,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, one of the three groups.
“This complaint asks Scott Bloch to do the bare minimum — step aside so his own employees can exercise the same rights that other civil servants enjoy,” he said.
But an OSC official yesterday described the complaint as “baseless,” saying it was filed by “disgruntled employees who know or should have known” that the complaint has no merit.
“They are trying to bring political heat on Scott Bloch for doing his job,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. “They’re afraid he’s going to get credit for eliminating a huge backlog of cases by forcing the people here to do their jobs.”
The official also said a recent decision by Mr. Bloch to transfer a dozen employees to field offices in Detroit and Dallas to deal with the backlog of more than 1,500 cases upset several OSC workers, although the backlog has been reduced by 85 percent.
“Scott Bloch is a strong leader, and some people are too union-oriented to accept that,” the official said. “They are disgruntled because they or their friends were reassigned. These are not whistleblowers; they just disagreed with the policies.”
In a statement late yesterday afternoon, OSC said: “These false allegations have been raised in multiple press reports over the past several months and most, if not all, of these allegations are old and have been previously addressed. While the press angle is clever, the sober truth is that these individuals are not actual whistleblowers under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
“Nonetheless, we are pleased to forward these allegations to the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) in the hope they will be able to put them to rest once and for all. It’s time to put these baseless charges behind us and move forward with the business of this agency.”
The PCIE was created in 1992 to address integrity, economy and effectiveness issues throughout government agencies and to increase the professionalism and effectiveness of the inspectors general offices throughout government.
Composed primarily of presidentially appointed inspectors general, it conducts audits, inspections and investigations to promote economy and efficiency in federal programs and operations to guard against fraud, waste and abuse.
The complaint also seeks to stop what it called a “purge” of lawyers and investigators ordered to resign for refusing to accept involuntary transfers to Detroit and Dallas. It also said that OSC targeted homosexual employees and failed to investigate accusations of sexual orientation discrimination and that OSC had “dumped” whistleblower cases.
The two other whistleblowers organizations involved in filing the complaint were the Project On Government Oversight and the Government Accountability Project. Also involved was the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights organization.