U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES MSPB DECISION ORDERING REMOVAL
OF D.C. SCHOOL TEACHER IN HATCH ACT CASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/7/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that on May 3, 2001, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) granted OSC’s petition for disciplinary action against Mr. Tom Briggs, a teacher employed by the District of Columbia Public School System. OSC’s petition, filed with the MSPB in October 2000, charged Mr. Briggs with violating the Hatch Act’s prohibition on being a candidate for elective office in a partisan election. Under the MSPB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) order, the D.C. School System must remove Mr. Briggs from his teaching position. (MSPB Docket No. CB-1216-01-0002-T-1)
Last year, Mr. Briggs filed papers to run as the D.C. Statehood Green party candidate for the position of Ward Two Member of the D.C. City Council. In September 2000, Mr. Briggs was verbally warned by an OSC attorney that his candidacy violated the Hatch Act and that he must either resign from his teaching position or withdraw his candidacy in order to avoid prosecution. On October 2, 2000, the OSC sent Mr. Briggs a formal warning letter to the same effect. Nevertheless, after OSC subsequently filed its disciplinary action petition in October, Mr. Briggs continued to teach school and actively campaign for the City Council seat against Democratic candidate Jack Evans.
Prior to 1993, D.C. schoolteachers were exempt from the provisions of the Hatch Act in the same fashion that teachers in the fifty states are currently exempt from the Act. Congress amended the law in 1993, however, eliminating the exemption for D.C. teachers. The Hatch Act penalties for D.C. employees are the same as they are for federal civilian employees. The penalty for proven violation is the employee’s removal from employment unless the full Board unanimously votes that the violation does not warrant removal. Under these latter circumstances, a penalty of not less than a 30-day suspension is imposed.
The Board’s order directing Mr. Briggs’ removal becomes final on June 7, 2001, unless a petition for review is filed by that date or the Board reopens the case on its own motion. While Mr. Briggs has admitted his partisan candidacy, he has challenged the constitutionality of the Hatch Act as applied to schoolteachers in the District of Columbia. Neither the OSC nor the Board has the authority to consider Mr. Briggs’ constitutional concerns. That issue may be addressed only by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which would hear any petition for review of the MSPB’s decision.
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 Act’s requirements.