U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL FILES COMPLAINT SEEKING
REMOVAL OF HEAD START EMPLOYEE FOR VIOLATING
THE HATCH ACT (REVISED)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 2/8/02
CONTACT: KAREN DALHEIM
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it has filed a petition for disciplinary action against Gwendolyn Brown, the Head Start Director at the Manatee Opportunity Council, Inc. (MOCI), in Florida. MOCI is a non-profit community action agency that receives federal funds. The petition filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), charges Ms. Brown with willfully violating the Hatch Act’s prohibition on running for public office in a partisan election. Ms. Brown ran as the Democratic candidate for the position of County Commissioner, Manatee County, Florida in November of 1998.
Under the provisions of the Head Start Act, at 42 U.S.C. § 9851, agencies that are responsible for “[p]lanning, developing and coordinating Head Start programs . . .” are deemed to be “State or local agencies,” for purposes of the Hatch Act. Since 1991, Ms. Brown has been employed as MOCI’s Head Start Director, where she is directly
responsible for managing the Manatee County Head Start Programs and for ensuring that Head Start services are provided in accordance with the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
According to OSC’s petition, in each of the last eight years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has annually awarded MOCI over one million dollars in federal grants. Recently, HHS awarded MOCI over two million dollars for the 1998 Head Start Act Program. The petition also states that Ms. Brown routinely signed assurances for HHS stating that MOCI Head Start “[w]ill comply with the provisions of the Hatch Act . . . which limit the political activities of employees whose principal employment activities are funded in whole or in part with Federal funds.”
In June of 1998, Ms. Brown filed as a Democratic candidate for the September primary election. Shortly after filing her nominating papers, an MOCI administrator was advised by an HHS official that Ms. Brown was covered by the Hatch Act and that she could not work in the Head Start Program and run for County Commissioner. Ms. Brown’s attorney, acting on her behalf, sent a letter to HHS challenging the Hatch Act’s applicability. Ms. Brown continued her candidacy and won the primary election. After the primary, Ms. Brown was again notified, this time by the Acting Associate General Counsel for Ethics at HHS, that her candidacy was in violation of the Hatch Act. Despite this additional warning, Ms. Brown continued her candidacy. OSC’s petition seeks the removal of Ms. Brown from her position with MOCI.
When the MSPB finds that a State or local employee has violated the Hatch Act and that the violation warrants removal of the employee, the employing agency must dismiss the employee or forfeit a portion of the federal funds, equal to two years’ salary of the employee.