OSC Seal

U.S. Office of Special Counsel

1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 300

Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


(202) 653-7984      

    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced the favorable settlement of a complaint filed with it by Charles W. Heckman, Ph.D., a Vietnam Veteran, against the U.S. Forest Service, his employer. 

    Dr. Heckman applied for a position as an ecologist/botanist, GS 13/14, with the Institute of Northern Forestry Cooperative Research at the University of Alaska. As a Vietnam Veteran, under Veterans Preference rules, Heckman was placed ahead of nonveteran candidates for the position. Subsequently, Forest Service officials informed Heckman that his candidacy was preventing the Forest Service from selecting one of several nonveteran candidates that it preferred. Officials from the Forest Service and the University of Alaska offered Heckman a temporary position if he would withdraw from the competition. They also informed him that if he did not accept their offer, they would cancel the vacancy announcement and start a new recruitment process.

    Section 2302 (b) (5) of title 5, United States Code, makes it a prohibited personnel practice to influence a candidate to withdraw from competition. Civil Service rule 4.3 contains a similar provision.

    Soon after OSC accepted the complaint, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) contacted OSC about the Heckman matter. The agencies began a joint investigation that called for OSC to focus on the prohibited personnel practice and OPM to focus on whether systemic hiring problems existed. Early into the investigation, the Forest Service extended its cooperation and indicated that it wanted to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

    Ultimately, the Forest Service offered Heckman a choice in positions, the job in Fairbanks or a new position in Olympia, Washington. Heckman chose the position in Olympia where he now works as a GS-14 scientist. The Forest Service disciplined the two individuals who attempted to influence Heckmanís withdrawal from competition. 

    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel provides an independent avenue to protect merit systems principles in federal employment. OSC receives, investigates, and prosecutes before the MSPB, charges concerning the commission of prohibited personnel practices, with priority given to protecting whistleblowers. In addition, the Office provides a secure channel for federal employees who possess information regarding legal violations, gross mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse.