OSC Seal

 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 - Yesterday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel ("OSC") settled a complaint for disciplinary action filed against Lorenzo T. Langford, the former Mayor of Atlantic City, N.J. Mr. Langford left office on December 31, 2005, after being defeated in his re-election bid.
OSC's complaint, filed November 9, 2005 with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), charged Langford with violating the Hatch Act by asking several subordinate Atlantic City employees, mainly City Department Directors, to collect absentee ballots for a candidate for Atlantic City Council and by writing a letter of endorsement and signing it in his official capacity as Mayor for the same partisan political candidate.

     Langford is covered by the Hatch Act because his primary job duties are in connection with programs that are financed, in whole or in part, by federal loans or grants.

     Requesting subordinates to collect absentee ballots for a political purpose 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.

     It was alleged that in May 2003, then-Mayor Langford held several meetings with the City's Department Directors, all of whom were his subordinates, during which he asked his subordinate employees to collect absentee ballots for Stephenine Dixon, Democratic candidate for Third Ward Councilmember in the then-upcoming June 2003 primary.

     OSC also maintained that Langford held subsequent meetings during which he requested his subordinate Directors to inform him of the number of ballots they had collected.

     The coercion charge also arose from Langford's request that City Department Directors collect absentee ballots for Dixon. The Hatch Act prohibits State and local government officials from coercing Hatch Act-covered State or local employees from contributing anything of value, including personal services, to a person for a political purpose. At least one, and possibly more than one, of the City Department Directors were alleged to have been covered by the Hatch Act.

     The complaint further alleged that Langford wrote a letter endorsing Dixon and signed it using his mayoral title in his official capacity as Mayor of Atlantic City. In the endorsement letter, Langford urged the citizens of Atlantic City to vote for Dixon and also touted his own political agenda.
Dixon's opponent in the race, Craig Callaway, was a bitter rival of Langford's and had vowed to destroy Langfords' mayoral administration. The two political rivals had to be separated before coming to blows at a City Council meeting three days before Langford was sworn in as Mayor. When Callaway won the Council seat, he made good on his promise to thwart Langford and prevented Langford from fulfilling numerous agenda items. OSC believes this is why Langford went to such great lengths, including violating the Hatch Act, to prevent Callaway from obtaining the Council seat. Langford admitted violating the Hatch Act by using his official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting or interfering with the result of an election.

     In the settlement agreement, Langford also agreed to the penalty sought by OSC and approved by an MSPB Administrative Law Judge. The penalty requires that Langford not seek office or government employment with the State of New Jersey for a period of eighteen months. Typically, OSC would ask for removal from the State or local government job in similar cases. However, because Langford left office in December 2005, removal was no longer an option.

     OSC is confident that the evidence would have substantiated the first two charges regarding Langford's request to his subordinate employees to collect absentee ballots and the charge of coercion. However, because he agreed to admit violating the Hatch Act and accepted the maximum Hatch Act penalty, OSC was satisfied that justice would be served by settling the case. Special Counsel Scott Bloch said, "This case should make clear that use of one's political authority and influence by supervisors to interfere with the normal political process will not be tolerated. This case shows why the Hatch Act is still relevant even today. Violators of this prohibition 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. The penalty for a proven violation of the Act by a state or local employee is removal of the employee from his/her position by the state/local agency and debarment from state/local employment for the following 18 months or if removal is not effectuated, forfeiture of federal grant funds by the state/local agency in an amount equal to two years of the salary of the employee in addition to the 18-month debarment.



The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.