Washington, DC — U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch, who is responsible for enforcing civil service rules, hired his son’s former Catholic boarding school headmaster as an expert consultant, in apparent violation of civil service rules, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition, Bloch gave the ex-headmaster a one-year appointment under which he would be entitled to receive as much as $111,966.40 but the only work produced was a four-page memo.
On March 16, 2004, Bloch hired 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, to serve as a consultant for a one-year period. Hicks was paid at an hourly rate of $53.83 for work not to exceed 2080 hours but Bloch has refused to divulge the total amount Hicks received.
In documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act –
- Hicks’s sole work product consisted of a single four-page memo to Bloch dated September 16, 2004. Bloch’s office withheld the entire text of the memo on the grounds that its contents are “predecisional”[sic];
- Although the total amount that Hicks was paid was not disclosed, Hicks was also reimbursed $598.75 for travel, food and lodging to attend two OSC staff retreats in April and May, 2004; and
- The nature of Hick’s special expertise is not stated. A “Consultant Statement of Work” dated July 15, 2004 states that Hicks will “review and analyze …current policies and procedures for its program offices…to determine whether they effectively facilitate the accomplishment of work.” In addition, Hicks was supposed to “advise on curriculum of future Office of Special Counsel training program.”
“It is beyond ironic that Scott Bloch heads the office that is supposed to enforce the rules against nepotism and favoritism,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has had to sue Bloch to extract records about Hicks and other no-bid consultant deals. “While Bloch blocked its release, for what it cost the taxpayers, it must be one heck of a memo.”
Under federal regulations, expert consultants, such as Hicks, may be hired on a non-competitive basis only if he is “a specialist with skills superior to those of others in the same profession, occupation or activity.” Moreover, Office of Personnel Management guidance warns, “Agencies may not use expert and consultant appointments to avoid employment procedures.” Apart from his past work as a school headmaster, Hicks briefly taught philosophy at the University of Kansas – neither of which would qualify him as an expert under terms of the federal rules.
Since becoming Special Counsel in January 2004, Bloch has not made a single hire through the competitive merit system, including the selection of recent graduates of the ultra-conservative Ave Maria law school to fill slots formerly occupied by civil servants. In addition, Bloch has conducted a controversial re-organization that forced the removal of several career staff. His conduct while in office is now under investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency and a Senate committee.
“Bloch has crippled the Office of the Special Counsel at precisely the time when an independent watchdog is most needed,” Ruch added, noting that OSC staff members have also complained about the fact that Hicks was given access to confidential whistleblower case files. “This case perfectly illustrates why Scott Bloch has no business remaining Special Counsel.”