By Lara Jakes Jordan
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Scott J. Bloch, the embattled U.S. special counsel whose tenure has brought national attention to his once-obscure agency, said yesterday that he will resign in January instead of staying on until a replacement can take over.
Bloch could stay in his position for up to a year after his term ends Jan. 5, or until his successor is confirmed by the Senate. But in a letter to President Bush, Bloch said he will leave at the end of his five years on the job.
The White House confirmed that it received Bloch's letter last night.
Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel, said Bloch was not asked to resign.
In 2004, Bloch was put in charge of the OSC, whose mission is to protect the rights of federal workers and ensure that government whistle-blowers are not subjected to reprisals. But almost from the start, Bloch himself was a subject of investigations, including for closing hundreds of cases allegedly without investigating them and for allegedly retaliating against employees.
Some of his agency's work was widely applauded. His resignation letter boasted of cutting a backlog in cases, of protecting reserve military personnel from losing jobs or benefits when called to active duty, and of highlighting problems in the New Orleans levee pump system to prevent future catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Katrina.
Perhaps his most notable investigation was of General Services Administration chief Lurita Alexis Doan. That probe triggered a broader look by Bloch's agency and House lawmakers into whether the Bush administration was engaging in illegal political activities. The White House acknowledged in April 2007 that it had conducted 20 private briefings on Republican electoral prospects in the 2006 election for senior officials in at least 15 government agencies.
One of those agencies was Doan's, and she resigned this April at the White House's request.
A week later, the FBI raided Bloch's office and home, amid allegations that he destroyed evidence and potentially lied to Congress during an Office of Personnel Management investigation of his own conduct.
OPM's inspector general was investigating a 2005 complaint, filed by current and former OSC staffers, that Bloch intimidated and transferred employees who opposed his policies. The employees also accused Bloch of refusing to protect federal workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In December 2006, Bloch paid $1,149 in taxpayer money to have an outside tech company, Geeks on Call, scrub his government laptop computer, he later told House investigators. Bloch told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff that the data wipe was done to protect government and personal information on the computer, not to destroy it.
Bloch has denied any wrongdoing.
"As you well know, doing the right thing can result in much criticism and controversy from every side," he wrote Bush in his two-page resignation letter.