- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The former head of the White House Office of Special Counsel in the Bush administration, whose job was to protect whistleblowers, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor count of contempt of Congress for withholding information from a House committee investigating his deletion of files from government computers.

Scott J. Bloch, who stepped down from the OSC post in 2008 after FBI agents raided his office and Virginia home, entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.

“Mr. Bloch is pleased to put this matter behind him and to move forward with his life,” his attorney, William Sullivan, said.

Mr. Bloch faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, although it was unclear yesterday whether government prosecutors had agreed to forgo prison time as part of a plea agreement. He was released on his own recognizance.

The government accused Mr. Bloch of “willfully” withholding information during a March 4, 2008, interview with staff members from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about deleted files.

He was accused of hiring a company, Geeks on Call, to delete the files from his office computer at a time he was under investigation by the inspector general at the Office of Personnel Management for retaliating against former employers.

Federal agents raided Mr. Bloch’s office and home in May 2008 as part of an investigation into accusations he obstructed justice. Nearly three dozen agents seized computers and reports from his office and Virginia home, seeking evidence that he intimidated and retaliated against whistleblowers among staff members working at the White House special counsel’s office.

The OSC was established in the 1970s to protect whistleblowers and shield federal employees against improper management pressures.

Mr. Bloch was named by President Bush to head OSC in 2004. But the agency was at odds with the White House during his tenure.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), at the behest of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), had been investigating a complaint by OSC staff members and others, who accused Mr. Bloch of interfering in cases involving the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.

At the same time, Mr. Bloch’s staff was conducting an expanding investigation into questions of whether Bush administration officials, including former political adviser Karl Rove, illegally participated in partisan politics on the job.

The OPM investigation of Mr. Bloch centered on a complaint filed in 2005 that he retaliated against employees, that a dozen employees thought to be whistleblowers were involuntarily reassigned, and that Mr. Bloch did not enforce bans on workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.