OSC Seal

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

Head Start Official Admits
To Violating Hatch Act

Executive Director of New Castle County (DE) Branch
Allowed Candidate to Give Campaign Speech, Distribute Literature, Register Voters During
Mandatory Work Meeting 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - November 2, 2006
CONTACT: LOREN SMITH, 202-254-3714, lsmith@osc.gov
WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the agency that enforces the prohibition on political activity of certain State and local employees announced a settlement with an official who had committed a violation. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, had filed a Petition for Disciplinary Action against Jeffrey Benatti, Executive Director of New Castle County Head Start (NCCHS), New Castle, Delaware. Under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Benatti admitted that he violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using his official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting or interfering with the result of an election and agreed to be suspended from his position without pay for thirty days.

      OSC’s complaint, filed on July 10, 2006, with the Merit Systems Protection Board, charged Mr. Benatti with using his official authority to affect the results of an election by allowing Paul Donnelly, at the time a NCCHS employee on leave of absence and a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, to give a campaign speech to NCCHS employees during a mandatory in-service meeting.

      Benatti introduced the candidate at the meeting, who then passed out campaign materials. Employees were also given the opportunity to register to vote during the meeting. Employees testified that by allowing the candidate to give a campaign speech, and by permitting voter registration at the mandatory in-service meeting they felt Benatti was attempting to obtain votes for that person.

      NCCHS, a private, not-for-profit organization, receives substantial federal Head Start grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, and thus, is deemed a “state and local agency” for purposes of the Hatch Act. Mr. Benatti is covered by the Hatch Act because, as Executive Director, he has oversight and supervisory responsibilities over NCCHS, including its federally funded programs. In addition, Mr. Benatti signed assurances for NCCHS that it was in compliance with a variety of laws including the Hatch Act.

      Special Counsel Scott Bloch said, “This is a textbook example of why the Hatch Act exists: to prevent turning the workplace into a political tool for supervisors or others. The ban on campaign events in workplaces such as these is clear. The coercive effect on employees is real whenever the boss is seen as approving a candidate. All violators will be prosecuted.”



The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency. Among other functions, OSC investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging violations of the Hatch Act, and provides advisory opinions on the Act. The Act restricts political activity of individuals principally employed by state, county, or municipal executive agencies with duties in connection with programs financed in whole or in 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. 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.