In an Oct. 13 letter about enforcement of the Hatch Act, Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, said his enforcement has been nonpartisan. His examples included the agency's prosecution of two federal employees for sending partisan e-mails.
These examples provide little comfort to federal workers, illustrating as they do a different but no less troubling form of abuse: a government prosecutor pursuing the most severe penalties against relatively low-level government employees for minor, inadvertent infractions.
The first case involved a single e-mail, critical of Sen. John F. Kerry, that an employee sent to 15 co-workers from a government computer. The other case involved an e-mail lampooning President Bush that was sent to a larger group; most of the recipients were not government employees. This e-mail was sent from the employee's personal account, using a non-government computer while he was off government premises. In neither case did the Office of Special Counsel allege that the employees knew their actions had violated the Hatch Act.
Before Mr. Bloch became special counsel, the Office of Special Counsel did not seek the removal of employees for minor, one-time, inadvertent offenses. Instead, such employees received a formal written warning and were prosecuted only if they ignored the warning. This approach balanced federal employees' rights to participate in the political process while respecting the Hatch Act's purpose of keeping partisan politics out of the federal workplace.
COLLEEN M. KELLEY
National Treasury Employees Union