Washington, DC - The U.S. Office of Special Counsel claims that it is unable to produce a copy of consultant contract with a former Catholic boarding school headmaster, according to an affidavit filed in response to a lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER is seeking to force the release of documents showing how the agency that is supposed to police compliance with federal civil service rules is itself circumventing civil service rules by using no-bid consultants and hiring on a non-competitive basis.
In filings before the federal district court in Washington, D.C., OSC contends that it lacks the staff to even respond to PEER's request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act until July 31, 2005. At the same time that he is claiming severe staff shortages, Special Counsel Scott Bloch is directing more than 20 percent of his headquarters legal and investigative staff to relocate or be fired.
"Why is the Special Counsel hiding these contracts?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that since becoming Special Counsel a year ago, Bloch has brought in a series of special consultants and non-competitive hires, including recent graduates of the ultra-conservative Ave Maria law school. "With the time and staff he is using to mount this convoluted legal defense, why doesn't he instead just comply with the law and produce a copy of the contracts?"
PEER is seeking copies of contracts and work products for -
- Alan Hicks, a former headmaster of St. Gregory's Academy, a Catholic boarding school, who left in the wake of allegations concerning priests sexually preying on young students. Bloch retained Hicks as a special consultant. PEER is seeking the contract and the resultant work-product; and
- A series of no-bid management consultant contracts let by Bloch. One of these contracts produced a report that Bloch is citing as the basis for creating a new "Midwest Field Office in Detroit" that will be run by staff members forcibly transferred there from Washington, D.C.
In a January 7th press release, Bloch announced the creation of three new units, including the office in Detroit, explaining that these new units were now possible because he had made substantial progress in reducing backlogs. On the other hand, in federal court contesting the PEER suit, Bloch claims that due to understaffing he cannot process PEER's document requests filed in June 2004 until the end of July 2005.
Ironically, one of OSC's duties is to oversee administration of the Freedom of Information Act by other agencies.
"God help the Freedom of Information Act." Ruch concluded.