Political e-mails get two civilian employees in hot water
ARLINGTON, Va. — E-mailers beware. Two federal civilian employees face disciplinary action for e-mails containing political messages, prompting the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to file the claims and issue an advisory.
The employees’ actions allegedly amount to electioneering on company time and violate the U.S. Hatch Act, said OSC spokeswoman Cathy Deeds.
“We are in a totally new area [with electronic messages,]” OSC spokeswoman Cathy Deeds said. “Federal employees still can be very active in politics, just on their own time, and they can’t use [work-related] equipment.”
The OSC, which governs federal civilian and some state employees, filed the complaints with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on Aug. 12.
One claim is against Environmental Protection Agency employee Maureen Taylor-Glaze, who faces discipline for allegedly sending an e-mail message to about 15 co-workers from her office during business hours, according to an OSC press release. The message contained a doctored picture, purportedly to be actress Jane Fonda and presidential candidate John Kerry speaking at an anti-war rally. Underneath were negative statements about Kerry, and the statement, “Please keep this going. We do not need this man as our President.”
Because her case is pending, Taylor-Glaze said Tuesday she could not speak about the incident, but would like to share her story once the matter is resolved “so that no one else ends up like me,” said the 66-year-old EPA employee.
Air Force civilian employee Donald Thompson faces discipline for allegedly sending an e-mail message titled “George W” to more than 70 people while working, the release states.
The message contained a document mimicking President Bush’s résumé, and is filled with allegations of incompetence and malfeasance specifically directed toward Bush’s defeat in the upcoming election. It also contains the phrases “Please consider me when voting in 2004” and “Please send this to every voter you know.”
The penalty for someone who knowingly violates the Hatch Act ranges from a minimum of 30 days unpaid suspension to termination, said Matthew Shannon, deputy clerk of the MSPB. There is a wide range of possible penalties if a respondent is found not to have willfully violated the act.
U.S. military personnel must follow a different set of rules — DOD directive 1344.10.
In general, servicemembers may register to vote, cast a ballot, express their opinions on candidates and issues (though not as a representative of the armed forces), make contributions to a political organization, and attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings, rallies or conventions as long as they are not in uniform.
Servicemembers cannot use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others.
And generally, a servicemember cannot be a candidate for, hold, or exercise the functions of civil office, but there are some exceptions listed in the directive.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while working and from doing so in a federal building or with federal equipment.
A look at the rules ...
Permitted/prohibited political activities for most federal employees (exceptions at Web site below):
Be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections (e.g., for school boards and planning commissions).Register and vote as they choose.Assist in voter registration drives.Express opinions about candidates and issues.Contribute money to political organizations.Attend political fund-raising functions.Attend and be active at political rallies and meetings.Join and be an active member of a political party or club.Sign nominating petitions.Campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances.Campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections.Make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections.Distribute campaign literature in partisan elections.Hold office in political clubs or partiesEmployees may not:
Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election.Solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency.Solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations).Be candidates for public office in partisan elections.Wear partisan political buttons on duty.Engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, wearing an official uniform or using a government vehicle.Source: Office of U.S. Special Counsel at:www.osc.gov/ha_fed.htm