E-records haunt OSC chief

2 members of Congress have called for Scott Bloch's resignation

Following a raid by federal authorities on the U.S. Office of Special Counsel last week, critics of embattled OSC chief Scott Bloch are questioning whether the office can continue to carry out its mission with Bloch leading it. OSC protects federal employees from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistle-blowing.

Two members of Congress have called for Bloch to resign, and other observers question whether the office can be effective with its controversial chief under renewed scrutiny.

Federal agents raided Bloch’s office in Washington and his home May 6, seizing computer files and documents as part of an ongoing investigation into possible obstruction of justice. Bloch had not been arrested or charged with a crime as this issue went to press.

In November 2007, investigators for the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general discovered that Bloch had hired a commercial company to erase all of the files on his government-issued computers. The Justice Department subsequently joined the case and began looking into whether Bloch’s actions were part of a cover-up.

Bloch has been under investigation by OPM’s IG for nearly three years because of allegations that he retaliated against OSC employees who complained about office policies and alleged that he abused his hiring authority and  dismissed whistle-blower cases without sufficient investigation.

“There’s a great deal of uncertainty about how the office is going to function [or] whether it will function during the rest of Mr. Bloch’s term,” said William Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association.

A spokesman for Bloch said OSC is moving ahead with its work despite last week’s events. “We are continuing to perform our independent investigative mission,” the spokesman said. “We are cooperating with law enforcement officials, but we do not yet understand what this is about.”

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who has sought e-mail records from Bloch, said he doubted that Bloch can operate effectively and called for him to resign.

“It seems clear to me Mr. Bloch will need to devote his energies elsewhere in coming weeks and months,” said Davis, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s ranking member.

Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.), ranking member of the committee’s Domestic Policy Subcommittee, joined Davis in calling for Bloch’s resignation.

Last year, Davis and Bloch faced off over Bloch’s alleged use of government equipment to send disparaging e-mails about Davis and others from his personal e-mail account.

One message accused Davis of acting like a defense lawyer for Lurita Doan, former head of the General Services Administration, during Bloch’s investigation of Doan for possible violations of the Hatch Act. 

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