U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL SEEKS REMOVAL OF NEW YORK EMPLOYEE FOR HATCH ACT VIOLATION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 2/28/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Yesterday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) filed a petition for disciplinary action against Mr. Michael R. Rafferty, who is employed as an environmental engineer by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. OSCís petition, filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, charges Mr. Rafferty with willfully violating the Hatch Actís prohibition on being a candidate in a partisan election and seeks his removal from employment with the state of New York.
As an environmental engineer with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Mr. Rafferty has job duties connected to programs financed with federal funding through the Environmental Protection Agency and, as a result, he is covered by the Hatch Act.
In October 2000, OSC received information alleging that Mr. Rafferty had violated the Act by running in a partisan election in November 1999. OSC investigated the allegation and found that Mr. Rafferty had a history of running for partisan elective office.
According to OSCís petition, Mr. Rafferty ran as the Democratic candidate for Princetown Town Council in November 1991. Several months later, in February 1992, the Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel of DEC, wrote to Mr. Rafferty regarding his candidacy. The letter stated ďall of your work as an engineer is federally funded . . . . you are prohibited from being a candidate for elective office in a partisan election . . . . we advise that you do not seek re-election to public office.Ē Despite the letter, Mr. Rafferty was a candidate for re-election to the Princetown Town Council in November 1995.
According to OSCís petition, DEC continued its employee education efforts and electronically sent out a Conflict of Interest policy to all of its employees in October 1997, that explained the Hatch Act and that covered employees could not be candidates for partisan elections. In January 1999, a revised DEC Conflict of Interest policy was again e-mailed to all employees that explained the provisions of the Hatch Act. It was also posted on DECís internal web site. Mr. Rafferty subsequently ran as the Democratic candidate for Princetown Town Supervisor in the November 1999 general election.
The Hatch Act strictly prohibits state and local employees, who have job duties in connection with federally funded programs from running for partisan office. The penalty for a proven violation of the Act by a state or local employee is that the employee must be removed from his/her position by the state or local agency or the state will forfeit federal funds it receives in an amount equal to two yearsí pay of the employee. The employee may also not be reappointed to a position in that state for the following 18 months.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency. Among other things, it investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging violations of the Hatch Act, and provides advisory opinions on the Actís requirements.