U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL REACHES DISCIPLINARY ACTION SETTLEMENT IN HATCH
ACT CASE INVOLVING EPA REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 8/22/00
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced
that—pursuant to a voluntary agreement—Mr. William Yellowtail, Regional
Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Denver, Colorado,
would be suspended from his position without pay for 100 days, in settlement
of OSC’s petition for disciplinary action, alleging a violation of the
Hatch Act. OSC’s petition for disciplinary action, filed with the Merit
Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in April 2000, charged that Mr. Yellowtail
violated the Act in February 1998 when he authorized his signature to be
placed on a letter soliciting contributions to the campaign of Robert
Deschamps for a Montana Congressional seat.
Mr. Yellowtail was originally appointed to his position
as the Regional Administrator, EPA, Denver, CO in January 1994. Mr.
Yellowtail resigned from EPA in March 1996, in order to run for Congress.
Mr. Yellowtail lost his bid for election. He was appointed back to his
former position as Regional Administrator in September 1997.
OSC’s petition for disciplinary action alleged that, in
February 1998, Mr. Yellowtail met with Robert Deschamps, a candidate for the
Montana Congressional seat, and several of Mr. Deschamps’ campaign
officials. During that meeting, the participants discussed Mr.
Yellowtail’s endorsement of Mr. Deschamps and the solicitation of campaign
Shortly after the meeting, an endorsement/fundraising
letter was drafted for Mr. Yellowtail’s review and approval. The letter
stated, among other things, that “[c]ontributing now to Dusty’s [Deschamps]
campaign is absolutely critical.” It urged recipients to “ . . . make a
OSC’s petition alleged that Mr. Yellowtail reviewed the
draft letter and authorized the Deschamps’ campaign to sign his name to
it, in violation of the Hatch Act. That Act prohibits federal employees from
soliciting political contributions. Subsequently, the campaign distributed
the letter to numerous potential supporters of Mr. Deschamps.
After OSC filed its petition for disciplinary action
against Mr. Yellowtail, on May 26, 2000, EPA placed him on unpaid
administrative leave. Mr. Yellowtail remains on such unpaid leave.
Although Mr. Yellowtail has denied, and continues to deny that he knowingly
violated the Hatch Act, OSC believes that it has sufficient evidence to
prove such a violation, were it to pursue the case before the MSPB. In light
of Mr. Yellowtail’s cooperation and willingness to agree to a voluntary
disposition, however, OSC has agreed to settle the case without further
Under the terms of the settlement agreement between Mr.
Yellowtail and OSC, Mr. Yellowtail will remain in a Leave Without Pay status
for a total period of one hundred days. His personnel records will reflect
that this status was imposed as a result of a Hatch Act settlement. After
the terms of the settlement have been accomplished, OSC will withdraw its
pending petition before MSPB.
Had OSC successfully pursued its petition against Mr.
Yellowtail, the possible penalties ranged from a 30-day suspension to
removal from employment. In deciding to settle its petition for a 100-day
suspension, the OSC considered a number of relevant factors. These included,
among others, Mr. Yellowtail’s full cooperation with OSC in its
investigation, and the penalties the MSPB has imposed in comparable cases.
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan said, “It’s important
for federal employees to understand that the Hatch Act prohibits the use of
a federal employee’s name on fundraising letters or invitations to
fundraisers. Federal employees must scrupulously avoid permitting their
names to be associated with such fundraising efforts.”
Special Counsel Kaplan emphasized that while OSC stands
ready to prosecute violations of the Hatch Act, it prefers to help federal
employees avoid such violations. “When in doubt about what is permissible
or impermissible under Hatch Act,” Special Counsel Kaplan advised, “I
would encourage employees to consult our office. There’s a wealth of
information at our website, www.osc.gov, and employees can actually
e-mail questions to us.”
(MSPB Docket Number CB-1216-00-0014-T-1.)