U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES CONSENT JUDGMENT ON PETITION TO REMOVE GOVERNMENT ATTORNEY
FOR HATCH ACT VIOLATIONS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/21/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced a consent judgment had been entered in its Petition for Disciplinary Action filed against Mr. Bruce Buchanan, an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in NLRB’s Little Rock, Arkansas office. OSC’s petition, filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), had charged Mr. Buchanan with five Hatch Act violations: (1) participating in partisan political activity while on duty; (2) participating in political activity or in federal office space; (3) using his official authority for the purpose of interfering with the result of an election; (4) knowingly soliciting the political participation of individuals with business interests pending before the NLRB; and (5) knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions.
Pursuant to a stipulation, Mr. Buchanan admitted that he had violated the Hatch Act and agreed to be removed from federal employment effective July 15, 2002. A copy of the removal order will be placed in Mr. Buchanan’s permanent employment file. The MSPB decision supporting the terms of the agreement became final May 16, 2002. (CB-1216-02-0003-T-1)
OSC filed the disciplinary action petition after an investigation revealed numerous violations of the Hatch Act statute that restricts the political activities of federal employees. OSC’s investigation revealed that in December 1997, Mr. Buchanan, while on duty and in his NLRB office, prepared two briefing memoranda for Mr. Nate Coulter, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. In both instances, Mr. Buchanan used his official government title in the memoranda.
OSC also found that while on duty in his NLRB office in March 1998, Mr. Buchanan solicited the assistance of a subordinate employee, to prepare two memoranda for the Coulter campaign. One memorandum discussed the solicitation of campaign contributions from various labor union representatives. Mr. Buchanan’s 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.
OSC also determined that later in March 1998, Mr. Buchanan, while on duty and in his NLRB office, called a sub-director with the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), to discuss whether USWA would support Mr. Coulter’s candidacy. USWA is also frequently an interested participant in NLRB proceedings. Mr. Buchanan again solicited the assistance of his subordinate employee in preparing an advisory memorandum to the Campaign Manager for Mr. Coulter.
OSC’s investigation concluded that 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 federal office space 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 “volunteer” 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 employee’s federal agency.