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

OSC Gets Back Job for Whistleblower
USDA Official Resigns after OSC Identified Multiple Personnel and Hatch Act Violations
 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 7/24/06
CONTACT: LOREN SMITH, 202-254-3714, lsmith@osc.gov
    
     WASHINGTON -- Today, the U.S. Office Special Counsel (OSC) announced the favorable settlement of a prohibited personnel practice complaint filed by the former secretary of the Alaska State Director for Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The complaint alleged that State Director Bill Allen, a political appointee of the President, involved his secretary in work related to his appointment to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly – a nonpartisan political office.

     According to the complaint, Mr. Allen routinely used his government secretary’s services to support his nonfederal political position by having her type borough documents, maintain his borough calendar and handle communications with borough staff. According to the complaint, Mr. Allen also required her to prepare a false USDA travel claim to obtain reimbursement for a nonfederal trip that he took with other borough officials to Juneau for the purpose of lobbying state officials on behalf of the borough.

     After Mr. Allen repeatedly had her perform illegal political duties, the secretary confronted him in private and informed him that she would no longer perform nonfederal duties. According to the complaint, she told him that conducting his political activities at work was illegal, that they both could get in trouble, and that he should take his political work home. The secretary also reported Mr. Allen’s nonfederal duties to various agency officials including an ethics officer and, subsequently, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Rural Development.

     The prohibited personnel practice complaint alleged that Mr. Allen retaliated against his secretary for her refusal to engage in his illegal activities and because he suspected she was a whistleblower and had filed hotline complaints concerning his office with the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

     The lengthy OSC investigation verified the complaint’s allegations and concluded that Mr. Allen assigned his secretary to a lower-graded position in the organization, kept her in limbo for over a two-year period, eliminated her secretary position from his state office, and selectively ordered a misconduct investigation against her because of her protected activities. OSC determined that by his actions, Mr. Allen committed the prohibited personnel practices in violation of 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8), (9) and (10).

     In response to a report containing OSC’s findings, USDA has agreed, without admitting fault, to provide the employee with full corrective relief. Under the terms of the agreement, she will be reimbursed for her reasonable attorney fees and medical expenses, assigned permanently to a new position within the Alaska State Office and allowed to resume her federal career.

     Earlier this month, Mr. Allen tendered his resignation from federal service.

     In a related investigation, OSC found that Mr. Allen also violated the Federal Hatch Act by soliciting the services of a subordinate employee for partisan political purposes. Because he is no longer a federal official, OSC is without authority to prosecute him for either his prohibited personnel practices or his Hatch Act violation.

     Special Counsel Scott Bloch stated: “This federal whistleblower demonstrated real courage by refusing to perform the improper duties that had been assigned to her by her boss and by bringing to light a misuse of federal office and authority by the highest official in her state office. She not only refused to commit fraud against the government, but she bravely reported her boss’s abuses to her agency. These courageous acts have caused her great personal stress and humiliation.

     “Federal employees should not have to fear reprisal for their courageous acts of conscience and OSC will continue to stand behind them whenever they expose waste, fraud and abuse within the government. I commend USDA Secretary Johanns and his staff for taking prompt remedial measures once OSC brought this serious matter to his attention.”



 

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Section 2302(b)(8) of title 5, United States Code, prohibits retaliation against federal whistleblowers who disclose, among other things, violations of law, rule or regulation or an abuse of authority. Section 2302(b)(9) of title 5, United States Code, prohibits retaliation against federal employees who, among other things, refuse to obey an order that would result in a violation of law. Section 2302(b)(10) of title 5, United States Code, prohibits discrimination against federal employees for conduct that does not affect employee performance.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging the commission of prohibited personnel practices, including retaliation for whistleblowing. Pursuant to statute, OSC, acting on behalf of victims of prohibited personnel practices, has authority to seek voluntary corrective action from federal agencies or through administrative litigation before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. 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 (800) 872-9855.