- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has filed complaints for disciplinary action against two federal employees for purportedly sending what OSC describes as politically partisan e-mail messages while on duty, in violation of the Hatch Act.

The complaints, filed last month with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) but made public this week, say the employees engaged in political activity while on duty directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for a partisan political office, or partisan political group.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee Maureen Taylor-Glaze was accused of sending an e-mail message to 15 of her EPA co-workers while on duty in her federal office building.

According to the OSC, the message contained a picture of actress Jane Fonda and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry speaking at an anti-war rally, under which were numerous negative statements about the Massachusetts senator, including one that said: “Please keep this going. We do not need this man as our president.”

U.S. Air Force civilian employee Donald Thompson was accused of sending an e-mail message titled, “George W,” to more than 70 recipients while he was on duty.

The OSC said the message contained a document mimicking President Bush’s resume and is filled with accusations of incompetence and malfeasance specifically directed at Mr. Bush’s defeat in the upcoming election. The agency also said the message contained the phrases, “Please consider me when voting in 2004” and “Please send this to every voter you know.”

“The use of Internet and electronic mail is second-nature to almost everyone, and has become a favorite and effective campaign tool, even more so perhaps, than four years ago,” said Special Counsel Scott Bloch. “I want to remind federal employees to be vigilant about following the Hatch Act, because we will consider this activity a form of electronic leafleting, and thus a violation of the prohibition on partisan political activity in the workplace.”

The Hatch Act prohibits federal executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the U.S. government, 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 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, upon 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 for the Federal Circuit.

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