U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 201
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL FILES PETITION TO ENFORCE REMOVAL OF D.C. SCHOOL TEACHER FOR WILLFUL VIOLATION OF THE HATCH ACT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/21/03
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) filed a petition with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board), to enforce the Board’s previous order that the District of Columbia Public School System (DCPS) remove Mr. Tom Briggs from his employment as a teacher. The petition also seeks the return of certain funds paid to Mr. Briggs following his removal.
In March 2002, the Board ordered DCPS to remove Mr. Briggs from employment in light of his willful violation of the Hatch Act. According to OSC’s enforcement petition, DCPS violated the removal order because it: 1) immediately rehired Mr. Briggs; 2) did not comply with its own rules and procedures in the removal and rehiring of Mr. Briggs and thus his “removal” was not bona fide; and 3) illegally paid Mr. Briggs, after he was “removed,” salary he accrued prior to his removal.
According to OSC’s petition, DCPS rehired Mr. Briggs into the same position from which he was removed effective June 17, 2002, the day before the school year ended and eight weeks after his April 23rd removal. Further, Mr. Briggs was removed for cause – willfully violating the Hatch Act. OSC’s petition states that, in light of his removal for cause, under DCPS’ past practice and procedures, Mr. Briggs should not have been eligible for rehire. The petition also asserts that DCPS illegally paid Mr. Briggs for accrued unpaid salary, violating the Hatch Act’s penalty provision barring such payment. According to OSC, among the accrued monies paid to Mr. Briggs was a lump sum of $5,098.44 for “summer pay” following his “removal.” In fact, OSC’s petition notes that after Mr. Briggs was rehired, he was then paid his regular summer salary, and therefore, received double pay for the summer.
As a school teacher, Mr. Briggs is an employee of the District of Columbia and is covered by the federal Hatch Act. In July 2000, 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, OSC advised Mr. Briggs that his candidacy violated the Hatch Act and that he must resign from his job 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. The letter stated, “Rather than pursue disciplinary action against you at this time, we are providing you with an opportunity to correct your violation.” Nonetheless, Mr. Briggs continued to campaign for the City Council seat against Democratic candidate Jack Evans. Subsequently, OSC filed a disciplinary action petition against Mr. Briggs with the Board.
As noted, the Board ordered Mr. Briggs’ removal from his position. Mr. Briggs has filed a petition for review of the Board’s decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That petition, in which he argues that the application of the Hatch Act to D.C. school teachers is unconstitutional, is currently pending.
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.