U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
SEEKS REMOVAL OF GOVERNMENT ATTORNEY, CHARGING
HIM WITH THREE HATCH ACT VIOLATIONS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 10/10/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) filed a petition for disciplinary action against Mr. Bruce Buchanan, an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in NLRBís Little Rock, Arkansas office. OSCís petition, filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), seeks the removal of Mr. Buchanan from federal employment. The petition charges Mr. Buchanan with violating three Hatch Act prohibitions: (1) participating in partisan political activity while on duty or in a government building; (2) using his official authority for the purpose of interfering with the result of an election; and (3) knowingly soliciting the political participation of individuals with business interests pending before the NLRB.
As an attorney for the NLRB, Mr. Buchanan is a federal employee covered by the Hatch Act. According to OSCís petition, in December 1997, Mr. Buchanan twice, while on duty, used government equipment in his NLRB Little Rock office to contact and prepare a briefing memorandum for Mr. Nate Coulter, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. In both instances, according to the complaint, Mr. Buchanan also used his official government title.
Further, according to OSCís petition, Mr. Buchanan, while at work in his NLRB office in March 1998, used government resources, including soliciting the assistance of a subordinate employee, to prepare a memorandum for the Coulter campaign. The memorandum discussed the solicitation of campaign contributions from various labor union representatives. Mr. Buchananís list included a former representative of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW); representatives of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); and a representative of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). OCAW, IBB, and OPEIU continually have applications for rulings pending before the NLRB and are subjects or participants in ongoing NLRB investigations and enforcement actions.
Later in March 1998, according to OSCís petition, Mr. Buchanan used his government phone while at work and called a sub-director with the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), to discuss whether USWA would support Mr. Coulterís candidacy. USWA is also frequently an interested participant in NLRB proceedings. OSCís petition alleges that Mr. Buchanan again solicited the assistance of his subordinate employee in preparing an advisory memorandum to the Campaign Manager for Mr. Coulter.
According to OSCís petition, Mr. Buchanan engaged in partisan campaign activities while on duty, throughout the spring of 1998. Among other things, he solicited support for the Coulter campaign from a labor union representative with the Paper Allied Industry Chemical and Energy Works (PACE). PACE also is often an interested participant in NLRB proceedings.
The Hatch Act strictly prohibits most federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities in a government building or while on duty. The Hatch Act also prohibits federal employees from using their official authority for the purpose of affecting the results of an election; this would include using an official government title and soliciting ďvolunteerĒ services from a subordinate employee. The Hatch Act also prohibits knowingly soliciting the political participation of certain individuals, including those with business pending before an employeeís federal agency.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel provides advisory opinions on the Hatch Act and also enforces the provisions of the Act by filing petitions for disciplinary action. Employees who are charged with violating the Hatch Act are entitled to a hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board. Under the Act, the presumptive penalty for a violation is removal from federal employment; upon the unanimous vote of the three member Board, however, the penalty can be mitigated to a minimum of a 30-day suspension. Employees have the right to appeal the Boardís decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.