Final Report Confirms Misconduct at Bush-Era Office of Special Counsel

FBI agents removed boxes from the Office of the Special Counsel Scott Bloch in downtown Washington after a subpoena search of Bloch's office in 2008. FBI agents removed boxes from the Office of the Special Counsel Scott Bloch in downtown Washington after a subpoena search of Bloch's office in 2008. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

Nonprofit accountability groups that were party to a whistleblower complaint against former Special Counsel Scott Bloch for prohibited workplace practices during the George W. Bush administration hailed the release on Wednesday of an inspector general’s report largely confirming their charges.

Bloch, who in 2011 was sentenced to probation and a day in jail for withholding information from Congress, was the subject of complaints going back to 2005 that he reassigned workers from the Washington office to Detroit because he disapproved of gay employees.

The new report, prepared by Office of Personnel Management Inspector General Patrick McFarland because the Bush White House sought to avoid appearance of a conflict of interest, concluded that Bloch’s moves “were motivated by anti-gay animus” and that the reassignments were “apparently designed to target the removal” of these employees, “without regard to the operational needs of the agency.”

The IG report confirmed that Bloch, who resigned in 2008, purged gay OSC employees through a reorganization on grounds that he had a "license" to "ship [them] out." It said he hired managers based on a “buddy system,” and none of those hires “possessed qualifications relevant to the position received." The IG found he engaged in widespread violations of merit system rules for federal hiring.

The report rejected allegations of illegal gag orders. It dealt with whistleblower issues and workplace rights, and not with the criminal charges against Bloch, which included destroying government evidence by calling in a private technology service to wipe documents from his office computer.

The current Office of Special Counsel, run by Carolyn Lerner, released the report and noted that OSC earlier this year reached a settlement on the case with the employees and the Government Accountability Project, the Human Rights Campaign, the Project on Government Oversight and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

GAP Legal Director Tom Devine welcomed the report, saying: “Bloch personifies the same abuses of power his office was charged with guarding against. He nearly destroyed the Office of Special Counsel, and another appointee like him may well have finished off the merit system.” Devine praised incumbent special counsel Lerner for having “made a 180 degree about-face, reversing Mr. Bloch’s misconduct.”

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said in a statement, “The rights of federal workers should never be subject to the prejudices of political appointees. This was a case study of how bad things can get when an inappropriate person is given the responsibility of heading up a federal agency. …That said, it should not have taken a full decade for the truth to be known.”

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