U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
OSC: EPA Administrator Did Not Violate Hatch Act
Better Agency Review Processes Recommended
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 12, 2008****
CONTACT: James Mitchell, 202-254-3607,
WASHINGTON, DC – An investigation by the U.S. Office of Special
Counsel (OSC) has concluded that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Administrator Stephen L. Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act when he
appeared at a 2006 fundraising event for a candidate for U.S. Congress. Mr.
Johnson attended and made remarks at a March 9, 2006 fundraiser at a Denver,
Colorado law firm for Mr. Rick O’Donnell, a Republican candidate for
Colorado’s 7th Congressional District.
A complaint to OSC alleged that Mr. Johnson’s
appearance constituted political activity prohibited by the Hatch Act
because Mr. Johnson’s official title was used in an e-mail disseminating the
event invitation, and the event was attended by members of industries
regulated by the EPA.
A purpose of the Hatch Act is to ensure that federal
agency resources are not used for partisan political purposes. Individuals
covered by the Hatch Act are prohibited from using their official authority
or influence, to interfere with, or affect, the result of an election. The
law also prohibits knowingly soliciting or discouraging the participation in
political activity of any person who has business before the employee’s
OSC’s investigation found that while Mr. Johnson’s
official title was used in an e-mail invitation for the fundraiser, the
invitation was sent by an organizer of the event, who was not covered by the
Hatch Act. Moreover, as the individual did not consult, or receive approval
from the EPA or Mr. Johnson, he was not responsible for the use of his
official title in the e-mail used to distribute the invitation.
OSC also found that the EPA staff, in approving Mr.
Johnson’s participation in the fundraiser, had not reviewed the list of the
attendees, nor informed him of who would be attending the fundraiser, or
where they were employed. Therefore, OSC found no evidence that Mr. Johnson
had knowingly solicited or discouraged the political activity of persons
with business before the EPA.
While Mr. Johnson did not violate the Hatch Act, OSC
found deficiencies in EPA staff review processes, and recommended that EPA
staff be aware of all parties and their roles in political events, including
the attendees, and consider this information when advising on participation.
Also, OSC advised EPA staff to review the invitation, along with its cover
letter or e-mail, to ensure it complies with the Hatch Act.
“Higher level officials must send a proper message of
caution when approaching political activity,” said Special Counsel Scott J.
Bloch, “Especially when they are going to election events because of their
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. For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.
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