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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


CONTACT: LOREN SMITH, 202-254-3714, lsmith@osc.gov
      WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has filed a complaint for disciplinary action against Tom F. Phillips, the Sheriff of Jackson County, Missouri. OSC’s complaint, filed January 17, 2006, with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), charges Phillips with violating the Hatch Act by asking several Jackson County Sheriff’s Department employees, all of whom were his subordinates, to appear in a political commercial on behalf of Claire McCaskill when she was a candidate for Missouri Governor in 2004. The complaint also charges Phillips with violating the Act by asking several subordinate employees to attend his 2004 re-election campaign fundraisers/events.

      Requesting subordinates to appear in a partisan political commercial and requesting their attendance at his campaign events violates two separate provisions of the Hatch Act—the prohibition against use of official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election and the prohibition against coercing or attempting to coerce employees to contribute anything of value, including personal services, to a person for a political purpose.

      Phillips is covered by the Hatch Act because his principal employment is in connection with programs that are financed, in whole or in part, by federal loans or grants.

      According to the complaint, Phillips approached four of his subordinate employees on August 29, 2004 and asked them if they would appear in a political commercial on behalf of McCaskill. He also requested another subordinate to come into work on this date so that she could open her office blinds to assist with the lighting for the commercial. The subordinate agreed and was rewarded with four hours of double overtime. The complaint further alleges that on the following day, Phillips asked another subordinate employee to ask other Jackson County Sheriff’s Department (JCSD) employees to appear in another taping or filming of Claire McCaskill political commercial. The subordinate did as Phillips asked, and three JCSD employees appeared in the commercial wearing their official JCSD uniforms. The complaint additionally alleges that Phillips asked several of his subordinate employees to attend his re-election campaign events/fundraisers, and accepted their uncompensated volunteer services to promote his re-election campaign by having these subordinates “work the polls” on Election Day.
     Special Counsel Scott Bloch said, “One of the main reasons for the original Hatch Act was to prevent political coercion and influence by supervisors in the public workplace. This case shows why the law is still relevant even today. The workplace should not be a place for partisan political activity, and violators will be prosecuted.”

     The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state, county, or municipal executive agencies who have duties in connection with programs financed in whole or part by federal loans or grants. A covered employee may not use his official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election, or coerce or attempt to coerce covered employees to contribute anything of value to a person for political purposes. When the MSPB finds that a State or local employee has violated the Hatch Act and that the violation warrants removal of the employee, the employing agency must dismiss the employee or forfeit a portion of the federal funds, equal to two years’ salary of the employee. The employee may also not be reappointed to a state or local position in that state for the following eighteen (18) months.



The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency. Among other functions, it investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging violations of the Hatch Act and provides advisory opinions regarding the Act’s requirements. For more information about OSC, please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1-800-872-9855.