U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES MSPB DECISION ORDERING REMOVAL OF D.C. SCHOOL TEACHER IN HATCH ACT CASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 3/29/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) granted its petition for disciplinary action against Mr. Tom Briggs, a teacher employed by the District of Columbia Public Schools System. OSC’s petition, filed in October 2000, charged Mr. Briggs with violating the Hatch Act’s prohibition on being a partisan candidate for elective office. Under the March 25th order, the D.C. school system must remove Mr. Briggs from his teaching position within thirty days. Mr. Briggs may choose to challenge this decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals. (MSPB Docket No. CB-1216-01-0002-T-1)
In the fall of 2000, Mr. Briggs ran as the D.C. Statehood Green party candidate for the position of Ward Two Member of the D.C. City Council. At that time, he was warned by OSC that his candidacy violated the Hatch Act and that he must either resign from his teaching position or withdraw his candidacy in order to avoid prosecution. Nevertheless, even after OSC filed its petition with the Board, Mr. Briggs continued to teach school and actively campaign for the City Council seat against Democratic candidate Jack Evans.
While Mr. Briggs admitted his partisan candidacy, he challenged the constitutionality of the Hatch Act as applied to schoolteachers in the District of Columbia. Prior to 1993, D.C. schoolteachers were exempt from the provisions of the Hatch Act in the same fashion that teachers in the fifty states are currently exempt from the Act. Congress amended the law in 1993 and eliminated the exemption for D.C. teachers. Neither OSC nor MSPB has the authority to consider Mr. Briggs’ constitutional arguments. This issue may be addressed only by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which would hear any petition for review of the Board’s decision.
The Hatch Act penalties for D.C. employees are the same as they are for federal civilian employees. The penalty for a proven violation is the employee’s removal from employment unless the full Board unanimously votes that the violation does not warrant removal. Under these latter circumstances, a penalty of not less than a 30-day suspension is imposed.
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.