The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Investigation of Govâ€TMt Whistleblower Office Purges Underway, Finally

by Brendan Coyne

Oct. 20, 2005 – More than seven months after employees of a federal watchdog agency demanded it, an investigation into allegations of cronyism, discrimination and a sudden and seemingly politically motivated personnel decisions is set to begin.

In a letter Monday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said it was initiating an investigation into allegations of improper and possibly illegal actions by Office of Special Counsel head Scott Bloch.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is charged with protecting whistleblowers and otherwise fielding complaints of discrimination from government workers. But workers in that office say they themselves are in need of such protections and until now have had very little recourse.

Topping the list of allegations against Bloch is that he ordered one-fifth of his office’s staff to abruptly relocate from Washington, DC or face termination in order to rid the Washington office of employees who were questioning his handling of a case backlog.

The OSC is supposed to be the government agency that investigates official wrongdoing. Instead, employees said, Bloch instituted discriminatory and heavy-handed policies, and sought to prevent agency employees from doing their jobs properly. Most OSC employees are career civil servants.

Among the worker complaints against Bloch documented by employee advocates are allegations of anti-gay bias, improperly closing hundreds of cases and barring OSC employees from speaking to the press about internal issues.

In issuing the relocation command, Bloch gave twelve workers 60 days to move from DC to either Dallas or Detroit, where he hoped to open new offices. All twelve worked for the OSC prior to Bloch’s appointment.

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the planned March opening of the Detroit office failed because of firings, resignations and retirements. Seven of the twelve employees initially ordered to move were dismissed outright for refusing to do so, PEER said.

Office of Personnel Management Inspector Patrick E. McFarland is in charge of the investigation into Bloch’s action, according to documents obtained and released by PEER. The investigation comes at the behest of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency.

Several unnamed OSC employees, PEER and two other government watchdogs, the Government Accountability Project and the Project on Government Oversight filed the March 3 complaint that sparked the announced investigation into Bloch.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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