A private investigative team led by prominent Washington attorney Mitchell Rogovin has recommended that no criminal or other actions be taken against Civil Service Commission employes who are accused of participating in a federal patronage hiring ring, a cover-up conspiracy and other alleged misdeeds during the Nixon administration.
While criticizing the commission's rules and procedures as "amenable to abuse," and its officials for some poor judgment or "improper" conduct on occasion, the investigators virtually exonerate officials who have been the chief targets of commission critics, according to portions of the report obtained by The Washington Post.
Noting the long succession of investigations into the subject, the report quotes one of the commission employes interviewed by Rogovin: "In some countries," the witness said, "there is nothing in the collective memory of the citizenry except wars; at the commission, it seems like as far back as we can remember there has been nothing but investigations."
The witness "implored us not to recommend still another investigation, the report says, "We are in accord with that sentiment . . . We think it is time for an end to preoccupation with the commission's past problems and time for the commission to move on to the important priorities of upholding and strengthening the merit system."
The Rogovin investigation, which cost nearly $300,000, was the first by an independent, private united last November by Commission Chairman Alan K. Campbell.
The Rogovin team said it has forwarded a draft report to the Justice Department and that Justice "has informed us that it has decided not to undertake any criminal investigations" as a result. Justice had already declined to bring charges against individuals charged with document destruction at the commission, saying there was insufficient evidence.
The complete report, scheduled for official release today, is also expected to include findings about more recent allegations that senior commission staff members improperly obstructed an investigation by the commission into complaints of racial and sex discrimination.
Both Campbell and Rogovin declined yesterday to comment on the contents of the report until its official release. Rogovin, a former assistant attlrney general, represented the Central Intelligence Agency during congressional intelligence investigations.
The whole complex range of charges and countercharges, cutting across political lines, has threatened to poison the Carter administration's attempts to overhaul the civil service system. Critics in Congress and elsewhere have charged that the same officials who committed abuses also helped write the reform proposals that the president recently signed into law. The administration has denied that charge.
Campbell said he hopes the findings of the independent Rogovin team will put the matter to rest at last.
The investigation grew out of charges dating back to 1969 that commission officials condoned or conspired in the Nixon administration's manipulation of federal agencies for political purposes. Those activities included officials' loyalty rather than their job qualifications - a violation of the merit principle that the commission is supposed to enforce.
A manual of that era outlined ways of circumventing the merit system, such as assigning unwanted employes to undesirable geographic locations, in order to replace them with political loyalists. Its author, Alan May, became the only person ever indicted for violating civil service regulations.
Revelations of such activities prompted an investigation by the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee and another by the commission itself.
Among the charges and conclusions in the Rogovin report are the following:
Regarding long-simmering charges that John D. R. Cole, a commission official, had in 1969 participated with May in attempts to circumvent the hiring rules at the Department of Health. Education and Welfare, the report says the weight of evidence indicates that he tried to "contain" rather than collaborate with May, a Nixon appointee.
The report also essentially clears Cole on charges of conflict of interest invloving a government contractor for who he had once worked, and on charges that he had made improper job referrals before 1975.
Cole, formerly director of the CSC's bureau of personnel management evaluation, is currently in a personnel exchange program teaching public affairs at George Mason University.
The report urged that no action be taken regarding allegations that job candidates with pink tags on their applications - indicating backing from high commission officials - received preferential treatment during the 1960s and the early 1970s.
The report said these practices and the resulting "subtle pressures" were "traditional, widespread and generally accepted" at the commission and that there is doubt that the activities were unlawful or that violations could be proved.
Regarding the destruction of documents by commission employes during a congressional inquiry, the report found insufficient evidence of criminal intent, as had the Justice Department. But the report termed the conduct a "totally improper" attempt to purge material that the employes thought might make them appear unprofessional or that might be embarrassing. It urged that such conduct in the future be prohibited.
Some congressional critics, notably Rep. John Moss (D-Calif.) and Rep. Newton Steers (R-Md.), have indicated strong dissatisfaction with the conditions under which the Rogovin investigation was being carried out and have called for review of the procedures by the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigating arm.
The Rogovin investigation was based on the previous investigations, including two file cabinets full of investigative files, plus independent interviews with 90 witnesses, most of them under oath, the report said.
Both Rogovin and commission officials have indicated they would turn over all the documents to the General Accounting Office on request.