Washington, DC — Plans by the U.S. Special Counsel to open a new office in Detroit next week have hit a small snag – nobody will be there to run it. All of the staff attorneys and investigators that Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed Special Counsel, assigned to go to Detroit have taken other jobs or chosen to be fired rather than accept the transfer.
Bloch has already leased office space in Detroit and made this new “Midwest Field Office” the centerpiece of a reorganization he launched earlier this year when he abruptly reassigned a dozen staff. Last week, Bloch ordered the employees who declined to relocate to clear out their desks and turn in their credentials, placing them on paid administrative leave pending their final removal from federal service this Friday, March 18.
Three national whistleblower organizations (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP)) and the country’s largest gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender equal rights organization (the Human Rights Campaign) contend that Bloch is trying to purge the OSC of career staff of suspected dissidents so that he can replace them with his own loyalists, thus engaging in precisely the type of illegal retaliation his office is supposed to police.
“Scott Bloch is finding out what happens when you throw a reorganization and no one shows up,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Bloch had described the Detroit move as “a careful management decision.” “Bloch’s tenure as Special Counsel has been an utter fiasco.”
Bloch involuntarily assigned seven staff members to open the Detroit office. Five refused the assignment and are awaiting termination. The remaining two accepted the forced move under protest but both have since lined up other jobs and are leaving OSC.
In addition to the 12 people who received relocation orders, other staff members are retiring early or leaving OSC for jobs elsewhere. Bloch has admitted that he has insufficient staff to handle both pending and new whistleblower cases. Thus far, Bloch has dismissed approximately one thousand whistleblower cases without investigation.
“From creating confusion about whether sexual orientation discrimination is a prohibited personnel practice to forced relocation of career staff, the Office of Special Counsel appears to have suffered notably under Bloch's leadership," added Human Rights Campaign Public Policy Advocate Praveen Fernandes. "Our government and its workers deserve better.”
In recent public statements, Bloch and his top political appointees have characterized resistance to his plans as coming from “leakers,” “union-oriented” employees and people who “oppose the President’s management agenda.”
“Mr. Bloch is coming out of the closet,” commented GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, noting that Bloch's public statements are precisely the sort of evidence OSC uses when it seeks to prove illegal retaliation. “Whistleblower lawyers use statements denigrating ‘leakers’ as code words for reprisal.”