The employee gave a congressional candidate special access to a radioactive waste treatment plant despite warnings this would violate ban on political activity while working.
An Energy Department employee voluntarily resigned and agreed to a three-year debarment from federal service because of a Hatch Act violation, the Office of Special Counsel announced on Thursday.
The employee gave a congressional candidate a tour of a radioactive waste treatment plant in Washington state. It happened after the department denied the candidate’s tour request and the employee was told the tour could violate the Hatch Act, which limits political activity of federal employees while on the job.
“The purpose of the tour, which was not open to the general public, was to provide the candidate with information for her campaign,” OSC said in a press release. “The candidate had repeatedly sought a tour of the plant to demonstrate her familiarity with the project to potential voters. Despite having this information, the employee unilaterally used her official authority to give the tour. Information and photographs from the tour were then used to further the candidate’s campaign.”
OSC filed a complaint with the quasi-judicial Merit Systems Protection Board in November. At the time, Zachary Kurz, OSC’s communications director, told Government Executive that the office “recurrently receives Hatch Act complaints about federal employees providing candidates for political office special access to federal facilities.” Therefore, the office wanted to make federal employees aware that “granting such special access to advance a partisan political campaign could violate the Hatch Act.”
The employee voluntarily resigned effective as of Jan. 4 following the complaint. As part of the settlement with OSC, the employee agreed to a three-year debarment from federal service and admitted she violated the Hatch Act.