OSC: Doan violated Hatch Act

Doan decries leak of special counsel report and asks to have the findings withdrawn

Lurita Doan’s problems as the General Services Administration’s administrator are mounting amid leaked allegations that she violated the Hatch Act.

The Office of Special Counsel reached a decision last week that Doan violated the law, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity on federal property during work hours. The OSC report, obtained by Federal Computer Week, details contradictions surrounding Doan’s denials of what happened during a Jan. 26 brown bag luncheon for GSA political appointees during which Doan allegedly asked attendees, “How can we help our candidates?”

Soon after news organizations published stories about the leaked document, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called Doan to testify before the committee June 7. It would be the second time for Doan to appear before Waxman’s committee on allegations of improper conduct. Doan first testified before the committee in March.

OSC special counsel Scott Bloch recommended disciplinary action against Doan. President Bush must decide whether or how to discipline Doan because she is a political appointee.

“The facts of this case establish that Administrator Doan violated the Hatch Act,” the OSC report states. “It was inherently coercive for Administrator Doan to ask and/or encourage her subordinates to engage in political activity.”

Bloch said in the report that Doan “displayed no reservations in her willingness to commit GSA resources, including its human capital, to the Republican Party. Her actions, to be certain, constitute an obvious misuse of her official authority and were made for the purpose of affecting the results of an election.”

Elaine Kaplan, former OSC special counsel and now a lawyer at the National Treasury Employees Union, said Doan’s troubles are primarily political at this point. “The consequences of OSC’s findings are going to be shaped by political considerations, not legal ones,” she said.

A White House spokeswoman said administration officials had not read the OSC report and had no comment.

GSA officials reacted to the report with dismay. “The administrator is again disappointed [about] the failure to protect what remains an ongoing and confidential process,” a GSA spokesman said in an e-mail message, adding that “it would be inappropriate for the administrator to comment on the investigation until the process has been completed.”

Doan is fighting back. Her lawyers intend to take up the matter with the Executive Office of the President, according to a May 24 letter that Michael Nardotti, an attorney at law firm Patton Boggs, sent to Bloch.

Nardotti wrote that Bloch should reject the current report, which was leaked to the media, and forward the matter to another investigative body.

“The gross and inexcusable failure to prevent the release of the report is extraordinarily unfair to Administrator Doan and has compromised the integrity of the process,” Nardotti wrote. “No action by your office now could erase the stigma of impropriety that now overshadows this case.”
Doan: Everyone is against meLurita Doan, administrator at the General Services Administration, told Office of Special Counsel investigators that the witnesses claiming that she asked, “How can we help our candidates?” were unfairly biased against her, according to an OSC report on the investigation.

Doan said she could not recall asking that question, and those numerous witnesses were upset with her because they received poor performance evaluations.

However, after checking those employees’ records, OSC found Doan was wrong. One of them had recently received a top performance rating. The others had, at least, met performance expectations, the report states.

“Administrator Doan’s statement…appears to have been purposefully misleading and false,” the report states.

— Matthew Weigelt

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