U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL SEEKS DISCIPLINARY ACTION
IN TWO HATCH ACT CASES AND OBTAINS DISCIPLINARY ACTION
DECISION IN A THIRD HATCH ACT CASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 2/15/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it has filed petitions for disciplinary action against two employees, one employed by a non-profit agency receiving federal funds and the other by the U.S. Postal Service, for willfully violating the Hatch Actís prohibition on being a candidate for elective office in a partisan election. OSC also announced that it had obtained disciplinary action in another Hatch Act case involving partisan candidacy.
The first OSC petition was filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in December 2000, against Ms. Gladys Perry, a Community Outreach Coordinator with the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity for Clinton and Franklin Counties, Inc. (JCEO), New York. OSC alleges that Ms. Perryís JCEO job duties are connected to federal funding through the Community Services Block Grant Program (CSBG). Under the CSBG statute, non-profit agencies receiving CSBG funding are covered under the Hatch Act in the same way that state and local agencies, receiving federal funding, are covered.
According to OSCís petition, while serving as Area 8 County Legislator for Clinton County in the state of New York, Ms. Perry established her candidacy to run in the fall 2000 primary and general election. In November 1999, JCEO officials advised her that she was subject to the Hatch Act and therefore could not both work for the JCEO and be an active partisan candidate. The following spring, JCEO officials repeated this advice.
OSCís petition alleges that in June 2000, Ms. Perry filed as the Republican incumbent candidate seeking election. In July, JCEO officials again warned her of the Hatch Act violation. Despite the repeated warnings, Ms. Perry ran in the primary election on September 12, 2000, defeating her Republican opponent.
In September 2000, the OSC warned Ms. Perry and her attorney that her candidacy appeared to violate the Hatch Act and, in October 2000, OSC formally advised Ms. Perry, through her attorney, that she must resign from her job or withdraw her candidacy. Nevertheless, Ms. Perry continued her campaign and ran as the Republican candidate in the November 7, 2000 general election. OSCís petition seeks the removal of Ms. Perry from her job with JCEO. (MSPB Docket No. CB-1216-01-0006-T-1)
OSC filed the second Hatch Act petition with MSPB in January 2001, against Mr. Ricky L. Higgins, a Mail Processor for the U.S. Postal Serviceís Mid-Missouri Processing and Distribution Facility. In 1997, when Mr. Higgins began this job in Columbia, Missouri, he was given training material that explained that Postal Service employees could not be candidates in partisan elections.
In March 2000, Mr. Higgins filed papers to run on the Republican Party ticket as a candidate for County Assessor, Cole County, Missouri. On March 15, 2000, Mr. Higginsí plant supervisor advised him in writing that his candidacy violated the Hatch Act. In April and May, Mr. Higgins was repeatedly advised both verbally and in writing by various Postal officials that his candidacy violated the Hatch Act. On June 1, 2000, OSC officially advised Mr. Higgins that he must resign from his job or withdraw his candidacy. Mr. Higgins did not resign and continued his candidacy in the August 8, 2000 primary. OSCís petition seeks that appropriate disciplinary action be taken against Mr. Higgins. (CB-1216-01-0011-T-1)
On December 2000, the OSC obtained a disciplinary action decision in third Hatch Act petition filed with the MSPB. Filed in September, OSCís petition had sought the removal of Ms. Gaynell Tinker, an employee at that time with the State of Alabama, Department of Human Resources. Despite repeated warnings from Alabama officials and OSC, Ms. Tinker ran as a Democratic candidate for Hale County Circuit Court Clerk in Alabama. In November 2000, Ms. Tinker resigned from her state job and argued that OSCís petition should be dismissed due to her resignation. Instead, OSC requested that the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) find that Ms. Tinker violated the Hatch Act and that she be subject to an 18-month debarment from state and local employment within the state of Alabama. The MSPB, in its CALJ decision, sided with OSC. (CB-1216-00-0029-T-1)
The Hatch Act strictly prohibits state and local employees, who have job duties in connection with federally funded programs from running for partisan office. The penalty for a proven violation of the Act by a state or local employee is that the employee must be removed from his/her position by the state or local agency or the state will forfeit federal funds it receives in an amount equal to two yearsí pay of the employee. The employee may also not be reappointed to a position in that state for the following 18 months.
The Hatch Act also prohibits most federal and postal employees from running for partisan office. Hatch Act penalties for federal and postal employees range from a minimum of a 30-day suspension without pay to removal.