U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL OBTAINS DISCIPLINARY ACTION DECISION IN
HATCH ACT CASE INVOLVING POSTAL EMPLOYEE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 4/18/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) had concurred with OSC’s petition that Mr. Ricky L. Higgins, a mail processor for the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) Mid-Missouri Processing and Distribution Facility, violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition on being a candidate for elective office in a partisan election.
OSC’s petition charged Mr. Higgins with willfully violating the Hatch Act. Mr. Higgins did not respond to OSC’s petition and resigned from the Postal Service on March 5, 2001. The MSPB decision written by Administrative Law Judge Hermele and issued April 10, 2001, concludes, “Higgins violated the Hatch Act.” It states “Higgins’ resignation does not moot the Special Counsel’s complaint. Rather his total failure to answer the complaint warrants the [his] removal from USPS.” In view of Mr. Higgins’ resignation, MSPB required the Postal Service to place a copy of its decision in Mr. Higgins’ official personnel file. (CB-1216-01-0011-T-1)
When Mr. Higgins began his job as a mail processor in Columbia, Missouri in 1997, he was given training material that explained that Postal Service employees were covered by the Hatch Act and 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. Higgins’ 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.
The Hatch Act 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.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency. Among other functions, it investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging violations of the Hatch Act and provides advisory opinions regarding the Act’s requirements.