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January 13, 2005

Getting the Story When the Subject Plugs His Ears

I really, really wanted to get Special Counsel Scott Bloch's side of this story. I don't feel obligated to provide equal time to authoriatarian government elites, but I do feel obligated to give them a chance to answer simple questions. So I called and emailed Mr. Bloch's spokesperson, Cathy Deeds, a number of times over about 36 hours. We even delayed running the story to give her a chance to respond. At one point, I threw a "Hail Mary" and just sent her the questions I wanted to ask. They're really simple and straightforward. I thought our readers might be interested in seeing some of the questions we do not get direct answers to...

Dear Cathy Deeds:

I am a reporter with The NewStandard in Syracuse, NY. I just left voicemail at your office but I wanted to try contacting you via email in case that is more convenient for you. My questions pertain mostly to complaints filed with Public Employees for Enviro. Responsibility (PEER) and other groups from staff in your office vis-a-vis apparently unilateral reassignments to field offices. I have just a few questions trying to clarify your policy/practice on this matter. If you would prefer to do this via telephone, please call me at 315-423-4783. I will be available all afternoon and evening (EST). I am expected to file a story late this evening, so your timely response is greatly appreciated.


On what criteria did Mr. Bloch decide which personnel to transfer out of the DC office?

Did he ask for volunteers before assigning transfers? If not, why not?

How many people (and in what general positions) hired since Mr. Bloch took office have been told they must tranfer?

How many people total are being transferred?

Is 10 days notice and a 60-day period to move standard federal gov't practice/policy?

PEER and the other groups allege it would be more efficient to move new employment slots allocated to the OSC by Congress to the new Detroit field office, instead of paying for transfers or severence. Why not do that?

Is it true that the Special Counsels office is now only (or mostly) hiring no-bid consultants and hiring employees on a non-competitive basis for investigative/legal positions? If so, is that a violation of civil service regulations?

To what government office or agency are OSC staff supposed to turn with employment complaints internal to the OSC itself? In other words, is there a separate office/agency that independently handles complaints from or represents/protects would-be whistleblowers at the OSC?

Again, I really appreciate your responses on this matter.


Brian Dominick
The NewStandard /

Do those sound like trick questions? She talked to the Washington Post before I got to her, and I think maybe she realized there really are no good answers to the questions.

Also excluded from my version of this story are allegations that Bloch has basically been burying the crucial office's case load. OSC represents government workers that allege mistreatment in the workplace ("violations of the merit system") or who come forward to speak out or present evidence alleging legal violations of their agencies (whistleblowers). But OSC's investigators and legal team have been notoriously bogged down, and now it appears that despite Bloch's bragging that they are reducing their caseload, it may turn out that they're just offloading their caseload. They are probably not pursuing any cases. We can't know yet, though, because Bloch hasn't released any documents since he took office.

Anyway, we're going to look into this aspect of the OSC story in coming weeks. This is one of the only government agencies that has the potential to serve exclusively good purposes -- so it is troubling that the person running it appears to want nothing to do with the Office's actual mission.


zodio17: Getting the Story When the Subject Plugs His Ears

Brian - I'm trying to find out who else is on the committee headed by Lieberman and Collins, the Senate Committee on Government Oversight. I'd like to enlist some friends across the country in calling their senators. What I find at is the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs - is this right? Or, more to the point, who are the other members of the committee?? Also, great work on the piece. Much greater detail than that offered in the Post article. Thanks, Maryellen

Brian Dominick: Getting the Story When the Subject Plugs His Ears

The committee is now called "Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs." The website is:

As of right now, there is no sign that they are going to do anything about the OSC situation. Everyone (staff) I spoke to was completely unfamiliar with the letter. They seem more interested in taking cues from the White House and jumping on the latest "justification" for the invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam was skimming Oil-for-Food money. Tough to figure what that has to do with Homeland Security or US Gov't Affairs (maybe they are the self-appointed Committee for Former Iraqi Government Affairs).

zodio17: Getting the Story When the Subject Plugs His Ears

Thanks for the prompt reply. All I can say is, this is crazy. I'm stunned that no one has even heard of the letter, but hey they got their hands full with other issues. Clearly, if Saddam hadn't skimmed money from the oil-for-food program, he wouldn't have attacked us.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.