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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
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OSC Finds Employees Solicited Political Contributions and Misused their Authority

CONTACT: Leslie Williamson, 202-254-3659, lwilliamson@osc.gov

WASHINGTON / January 8, 2009 – Pursuant to a disciplinary action complaint filed by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) against Paula Acconcia, an Assistant United States Trustee was ordered removed from her employment with the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the Hatch Act. Ms. Acconcia solicited a political contribution from a subordinate employee for a Missouri gubernatorial candidate. During Ms. Acconcia’s solicitation of the contribution, she handed a subordinate employee a form that notified the employee of a campaign event for the candidate and requested contributions. Ms. Acconcia acknowledged to the employee that she knew her conduct was “a little outside the rules” but that she was giving the employee the solicitation material “as a friend.” Ms. Acconcia was in the federal workplace when she solicited the subordinate employee.

Soliciting a political contribution from a subordinate violates two separate provisions of the Hatch Act: the prohibition against using one’s official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election and the prohibition against soliciting, accepting, or receiving a political contribution. Ms. Acconcia’s activity also violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty or in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties.

In ruling that Ms. Acconcia violated the Hatch Act, the Merit Systems Protection Board (Board) recognized that cases involving coercion of employees are to be taken seriously and the presumptive penalty of removal will be imposed. The Board stated that one of the purposes of the Hatch Act is to “make sure that Government employees [are] free from pressure and from express or tacit invitation to vote in a certain way or perform political chores in order to curry favor with their superiors rather than to act out their own beliefs.” Additionally, the Board reaffirmed the principle that “[w]here the supervisor-subordinate relationship exists no particular words are required to establish coercion because virtually any language can be threatening.”

In a similar matter, a GS-15 National Park Service (NPS) supervisor has received a 90 day suspension without pay for violating the Hatch Act. An investigation by the OSC found that the employee violated three provisions of the Hatch Act -- the prohibitions against using one’s official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election; soliciting, accepting, or receiving a political contribution; and engaging in political activity while on duty or in federal room or building. Specifically, OSC found that the GS-15 supervisor hosted a fundraising event at her home in support of a U.S. Congressional candidate and, while at an office staff meeting, invited subordinate employees to attend that fundraising event.

OSC’s investigation also found that, a few days before the fundraiser was held, NPS management counseled the employee about the Hatch Act and advised her that her actions may have violated the Act. Management advised her to contact the subordinate employees and let them know she had made a mistake in inviting them to the event. The employee contacted the subordinates and disinvited them to the event, and none attended the fundraiser.

The 90 day suspension is the result of a settlement agreement the employee entered into with OSC and NPS. The suspension began December 22, 2008.

“These cases illustrate one of the core purposes of the Hatch Act – to protect employees from being coerced into engaging in political activity,” said Acting Special Counsel William Reukauf.



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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