Washington, DC — Through a stinging complaint filed today, employees at the Office of Special Counsel are attempting to spark an independent investigation into a series of actions taken by Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed Special Counsel who is supposed to be the principal protector of federal whistleblower and merit system rights. By law, Bloch’s office is supposed to review such complaints of illegal transfers and removals but the complaint asks that he recuse himself and refer it to an outside body.
The complaint filed by a group of unnamed OSC employees, three national whistleblower protection organizations (the Government Accountability Project, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Project on Government Oversight) and the country’s largest gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender equal rights organization (the Human Rights Campaign) outlines a litany of illegal gag orders, cronyism, invidious discrimination, and retaliation. In addition, the complaint seeks to stop an unfolding purge of OSC headquarters staff, in which a number of attorneys and investigators have been ordered to resign for refusing to accept involuntary transfers to Detroit or Dallas.
“Scott Bloch as Special Counsel is like discovering that your fire chief is a closet arsonist,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is suing Bloch in federal district court to obtain information about the “special consultant” job Bloch gave to his son’s former Catholic boarding school headmaster and about other no-bid contracts. “This complaint asks Scott Bloch to do the bare minimum – step aside so that his own employees can exercise the same rights that other civil servants enjoy.”
The complaint also details other highly questionable actions by Bloch, including –
- Targeting Gay Employees and Failing to Investigate Allegations of Sexual Orientation Discrimination. Bloch selected the only two openly gay employees at OSC for forced transfer. By contrast, Bloch promoted the only senior staff member who agreed with Bloch’s position that his office lacked jurisdiction to enforce bans against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – a position at odds with that of the Bush White House. In addition, he refused to investigate a gay whistleblower’s charge of blatant sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation; and
- Dumping Whistleblower Cases. Bloch instituted a rule forbidding his staff from contacting a whistleblower if their disclosure or complaint was deemed incomplete or ambiguous. Instead, OSC would simply dismiss the matter. As a result of this gag on communicating with whistleblowers, hundreds of valid whistleblower cases may have been prematurely closed.
“The mission of this office is too important not to have an independent review of the Special Counsel’s conduct,” added Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight, noting that Bloch is supposed to protect whistleblowers but has vowed to punish “leakers” who disclose problems in his office. “This office needs to remain above reproach in its handling of employees.”
“The American people are best served by federal employees who are hired and employed on the merits of their contributions, not on their sexual orientation,” said HRC Public Policy Advocate Praveen Fernandes. “Employment discrimination is always wrong, and is beneath the dignity of the men and women working for the federal government, especially in the Office of Special Counsel.”
“This scandal is déjà vu with a purge of Special Counsel staff 24 years ago,” noted Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine recounting a controversial staff purge that forced the resignation of Special Counsel Alex Kozinski in 1981. “The Special Counsel cannot act as judge and jury in ruling on his own misconduct.”
The employees and the groups are asking that Bloch refer their complaint to the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, an umbrella group of inspector general and other government oversight agencies, that has the power to review such complaints when referred by a member agency. In other words, PCIE is being asked to function as the watchdog over the watchdog agencies. Special Counsel Scott Bloch is a member of PCIE.