U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL FILES PETITION SEEKING ORDER OF REMOVAL AGAINST AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER, CHARGING HIM WITH TWO HATCH ACT VIOLATIONS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 11/26/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it has filed a petition for disciplinary action against Mr. Mike McEntee, an Air Traffic Control Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The petition charges Mr. McEntee with violating two Hatch Act prohibitions: (1) running as a candidate for election to a partisan political office, and (2) knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions from any person. OSC’s petition, filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board), seeks the removal of Mr. McEntee from federal employment.
As an FAA employee, Mr. McEntee is a federal employee covered by the Hatch Act. OSC’s petition alleges that Mr. McEntee violated the Act when he ran as a candidate in the Albuquerque mayor’s election held on October 2, 2001. According to the petition, Mr. McEntee took actions in his race for mayor that resulted in a partisan candidacy, despite the fact that Albuquerque’s City Charter requires that the names of candidates for the race be listed on the ballot without any party designation. The petition alleges that Mr. McEntee’s actions included holding himself out as the only conservative Republican candidate; receiving the endorsement of the Bernalillo County Republican Party Executive Committee; accepting and advertising his endorsement by Republicans; and stating in his campaign literature that his candidacy was the “only hope for defeating the Democrat machine.”
According to OSC’s petition, Mr. McEntee engaged in political fundraising when he signed and mailed out a “Dear Republican Friend” letter with the following request: “If you can afford a small contribution to help offset the cost of this mailing and to help us build a warchest [sic] . . .” OSC’s petition alleges that he also subsequently signed and sent another fundraising letter stating: “. . . I need your financial support now so we can put our message in the mail, on TV and on radio. . . . Your contribution of $25, or $50 or even $100 will really help.”
According to the petition, in August 2001, OSC contacted both Mr. McEntee and Mr. Patrick Rogers, his attorney, by telephone, to advise them that Mr. McEntee’s candidacy violated the Hatch Act. OSC also sent a formal warning letter explaining why Mr. McEntee’s candidacy violated the Hatch Act. That letter stated: “Rather than pursue disciplinary action against you at this time, we are providing you with an opportunity to correct your violation. . . . you may withdraw your candidacy for Mayor of Albuquerque or you may resign from your position with the Federal Aviation Administration.” Following the receipt of this letter, Mr. McEntee did not withdraw from the mayor’s race nor did he resign from federal employment.
The Hatch Act strictly prohibits most federal employees from running in a partisan political election and from soliciting partisan political contributions from anyone.
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 MSPB. 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 Board’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.