Political Activity Trips Up Federal Attorney

A federal attorney has been found to have violated the Hatch Act and an initial decision by an MSPB judge has upheld his removal.

One way a federal employee can get in trouble is with the Hatch Act. The rules are sometimes vague and political passions may be intense.

Periodically, a new case pops up about a federal employee who has been on the receiving end of an adverse or disciplinary action for engaging in improper political activity.

Here is the latest case. A lawyer for the Small Business Administration was an elected official for the California Green Party. Perhaps that would have been okay but he took his political passion straight to Uncle Sam’s computer keyboard and internet access portal while he was on duty.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigated and found widespread use of his government e-mail program to further his position within the party. OSC asked the Merit Systems Protection Board to enforce the prohibitions of the Hatch Act. The initial decision of the administrative judge has been issued and upholds the removal of Jeffrey Eisinger for having engaged in partisan political activity while working for the federal government.

In his 22-page initial decision, the administrative judge found that over a three-year period, the federal employee had received, read, drafted or sent more than 100 emails through his government computer that were directed toward the success of the Green Party.

The emails concerned topics such as party fundraising opportunities, outreach and recruitment plans, internal drafts of various party platforms, and the planning of a state-wide Green Party political convention. The conclusion: “Eisinger’s political activities at work and in his government office were continual and significant.”

The AJ concluded that Eisinger knew the Hatch Act prohibited federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity while at work. He also concluded that Eisinger had assured his supervisor he would not entangle the agency in any ethical or Hatch Act issues.

Eisinger had earlier been suspended by SBA for misuse of the government email system.

Eisinger can still appeal his removal to the full Board if he chooses to do so.

In a press release, Special Counsel Scott Bloch was quoted: “Technology has wrought many changes in recent years, from horse-drawn carriages to whistle-stop campaigning to email to internet fundraising. However, it remains the law that government resources must not be used for political activities. Whether it’s old-school low-tech or new-school hi-tech, the Hatch Act remains an important principle our office is dedicated to enforcing.”

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47