U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES DISCIPLINARY ACTION IN
HATCH ACT CASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 2/21/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) had granted its request to order the removal of Mr. Everett O’Donnell from his position as Director of Maintenance for the Warwick Housing Authority in Rhode Island. OSC’s petition, filed with the MSPB on October 27, 2000, charged Mr. O’Donnell with violating the Hatch Act’s prohibition on being a candidate for elective office in a partisan election. At the time the petition was filed, Mr. O’Donnell was an active candidate for Warwick City Council as Ward Four representative.
Under the Board’s order, written on February 16, 2001 by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Bruce D. Rosenstein, the Warwick Housing Authority must remove Mr. O’Donnell from his position within thirty days. If he is not removed during this time frame, the order calls for federal funds to be withheld from the Housing Authority in the amount equal to two years of Mr. O’Donnell’s salary. The order further states that should Mr. O’Donnell be rehired by a state or local agency in the State of Rhode Island within eighteen months after his removal, the MSPB will order a withholding of federal funds in the amount equal to two years of Mr. O’Donnell’s salary. The MSPB order becomes final on March 23, 2001 unless Mr. O’Donnell petitions for a full Board review of his case or the Board reopens the case on its own motion. (MSPB Docket No. CB-1216-01-0004-T-1)
As the Director of Maintenance of the Warwick Housing Authority, Mr. O’Donnell has job duties connected to a program that is financed in whole or in part by the federal government and, as a result, he is covered by the federal Hatch Act. Following a telephone call to Mr. O’Donnell, officials of the OSC warned him by letter dated October 19, 2000, that his candidacy violated the Act and that he must resign his job or withdraw his candidacy in order to avoid prosecution. Nevertheless, Mr. O’Donnell continued to be employed as Director of Maintenance for the Housing Authority and continued to actively campaign as a Republican candidate for Warwick City Council in the November 7, 2000 general election.
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 years’ pay of the employee. The employee may also not be reappointed to a position in that state for the following 18 months.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency. Among other things, it investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging violations of the Hatch Act, and provides advisory opinions on the Act’s requirements.