U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
OSC SETTLES UNIQUE POLITICAL DISCRIMINATION CASE
FORMER SECRETARY ALFONZO JACKSON COMMITTED PROHIBITED PERSONNEL PRACTICE BY FAILING TO APPOINT APPLICANT TO CAREER POSITION SOLELY BECAUSE OF APPLICANT’S POLITICAL STATUS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ****
CONTACT: Darshan A. Sheth, 202-254-3617,
WASHINGTON / April 28, 2009 – Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it has resolved a complaint of prohibited personnel practice that was filed against the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The complaint concerned allegations that in 2007 former HUD Secretary Alfonzo Jackson rejected the selection of a qualified applicant for a career position because the applicant was then serving as a political appointee in the Bush Administration. After an investigation conducted by its San Francisco Bay Area Field Office, OSC concluded that the applicant had been denied a career appointment solely because of his status as a Schedule C political appointee in the Excepted Service. Although federal civil service law prohibits the conversion of political appointees to career positions for partisan political reasons, the OSC investigation determined that in this instance the applicant’s selection had been made through competitive examination based on merit factors, and not because of the applicant’s political affiliation or beliefs. Consequently, OSC found that Secretary Jackson’s refusal to approve the selection violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and applicable civil service regulations prohibiting nonmerit factors from being considered in filling competitive service positions.
Under its statutory corrective action procedures, Acting Special Counsel William E. Reukauf recommended that HUD take all reasonable steps to place the applicant in the position he would have been in if the prohibited personnel practice had not occurred. In response to OSC’s report, HUD has agreed to appoint the applicant to the position of Field Office Director in Springfield, Illinois, and reimburse the applicant for his attorney’s fees and other consequential damages. The settlement agreement does not assign fault but reflects the cooperative spirit in which it was executed.
In an earlier administrative action, OSC obtained an order from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board that temporarily stayed the applicant’s removal from federal service with the change in administrations. OSC now will ask the Board to lift its stay order. Acting Special Counsel Reukauf stated, “The federal merit system principles permit an employer to consider only factors that relate to a particular applicant’s qualifications in employment decisions. In this case, we concluded that Secretary Jackson improperly considered this applicant’s political status and party affiliation in rejecting his selection for competitive appointment. This was as wrong as if HUD had used the applicant’s political affiliation or status as the reason to select him for a career civil service position. Neither an applicant’s party membership nor political beliefs has legitimacy in evaluating the applicant’s qualification for career federal service. I wish to commend Secretary Donovan and his staff for recognizing the mistake of his predecessor and agreeing to this corrective action.”
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 and abuse of authority. 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.
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