Documents Concerning the Office of Special Counsel

The Office of Special Counsel is responsible, among other things, for investigating retaliation against government whistleblowers.  Turning it's mission on its head, the Office is now retaliating against its own staff and closing up hundreds of pending cases. This page contains links to documents concerning this controversy.
Late addition of funds boosts Special Counsel probe of White House briefings, Congress Daily, by Dan Friedman, January 7, 2008.
The Office of Special Counsel will get some financial help for its investigation into charges of illegal politicking by White House officials after Congress added $1.1 million for the probe in the omnibus spending bill signed in December by President Bush. OSC's eight-month-old inquiry has focused on briefings about Republican political strategy given by former White House political adviser Karl Rove and others to appointees at most federal agencies from 2001 to 2006. While the presentations may be legal, the investigation addresses whether by encouraging federal officials to award contracts or grants to targeted congressional districts, the briefings resulted in violations of the Hatch Act, which bars use of government resources for partisan politics. … The Government Accountability Project, Project on Government Oversight and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility are parties to a complaint against Bloch charging he retaliated against whistleblowers in his office. That complaint led to a more than two-year-old investigation into Bloch by the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general. Because the OPM IG could recommend that Bush fire Bloch, the groups have argued OSC's Hatch Act investigation is a ploy to gain leverage against the White House.

Office of Special Counsel Under Scrutiny, BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, November 28, 2007.
At least three public-interest groups are calling for the ouster of Special Counsel Scott Bloch, whose independent agency represents federal whistleblowers. The groups – Project on Government Oversight, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Government Accountability Project – say he paid a computer firm to cleanse his computer hard drives at work. The WSJ reports today that Bloch paid $1,149 to Geeks on Call for a “seven level wipe” of his computer nearly a year ago. Such deletions make it difficult for computer forensics experts to reconstruct data. … “Stop the madness! Under Bloch’s leadership, OSC has been utterly neutered. Bloch’s tenure epitomizes everything people distrust in government: cronyism, incompetence, retaliatory conduct and a politicized agenda,” says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight.

POGO Alert - Whistleblower groups call on President Bush to fire Special Counsel Scott Bloch in wake of revelations he destroyed evidence and obstructed investigation of his misconduct, November 28, 2007.

POGO Alert - Groups Urge Congress to Deny Funds to Discredited Special Counsel Obstruction Delaying Completion of Investigation, October 11, 2007.

Testimony of POGO's Beth Daley before the Subcommittee of Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia on "Ensuring a Merit-Based Employment System: An Examination of the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Office of Special Counsel," July 12, 2007.

Special Counsel's Ties to White House Mar Probe,, May 14, 2007, by William Fisher.
Public interest groups and anonymous whistleblowers are charging that Scott Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), has irreconcilable conflicts of interest in his much-trumpeted investigations of Karl Rove's missing emails and the firing of a US attorney, and are calling on the top White House lawyer to force Bloch to recuse himself. ... "It is not that Bloch has lacked the opportunities to conduct complex investigations, since every virtually whistleblower in town goes to the OSC, but Bloch has ignored them all. It is only when a probe serves his political agenda that he latches onto it as if it were the last helicopter leaving Saigon," says POGO Director of Investigations Beth Daley. "What we have here is a mutual investigation society. This is the bureaucratic equivalent of a mouse trying to swallow an elephant. The OSC has no standing to conduct the investigation , and Scott Bloch cannot possibly investigate the White House while it is investigating him."

Some say Bloch should be careful, Baltimore Sun, May 4, 2007.
Scott Bloch, a Republican appointee who leads a small agency responsible for keeping partisan politics out of the bureaucracy, has opened a wide-ranging investigation into Karl Rove's political operation at the White House. Bloch is investigating a list of allegations, some of which were made by federal employees. ... Public interest groups, which normally salivate over such house-cleaning missions, however, want Bloch to recuse himself because he's investigating people who already were investigating him. ... "If Scott Bloch wasn't under investigation and done all of these things, we'd say, 'Go for it. More power to him,'" said Beth Daley, director of the investigations for the Project on Government Oversight.

POGO Alert - New Probe of White House Already Foundering; Jurisdiction and Subpoena Limits Hamstring Questionable Special Counsel Gambit, April 26, 2007.

Agency watching the agencies walks fine line on conflict-of-interest issues, The Hill, by Elana Schor, April 26, 2007.
Even as a House committee yesterday approved two subpoenas for the Republican National Committee in the growing White House e-mail scandal, the agency investigating whether the executive branch illegally misused federal resources for political purposes continued to tangle with critics of its own. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has tapped a task force to begin a broad inquiry into alleged politicization at Bush administration agencies — a charge that has united the scandals regarding the U.S. attorneys and the General Services Administration (GSA) in the view of many Democrats. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday issued two new subpoenas in that inquiry. ... The attorney and the watchdogs argue that Bloch’s involvement could violate the Hatch Act, which bars federal agencies from politicking, and say he should step aside until the OSC whistleblowers’ case is complete. “You have to wonder if the people’s interest will outweigh one person’s desire to protect his own skin,” Beth Daley, director of investigations at the Project on Government Oversight, said in a Tuesday statement.

Office of Special Counsel's War On Whistleblowers, Mother Jones, By Daniel Schulman, April 24, 2007 (May/June print issue).
... It looked as if Leroy Smith was going to get some recognition after all. A safety manager at a federal prison in California, he had challenged his bosses, risked his job, and endured threats of retaliation to expose hazardous conditions in a prison computer recycling program where inmates were smashing monitors with hammers, unleashing clouds of toxic metals. Now the federal government was flying him to Washington, D.C., as a whistleblowing hero. The Office of Special Counsel (osc), the federal agency charged with protecting government employees who expose waste, fraud, and abuse, had scheduled a catered event honoring Smith as "Public Servant of the Year." The office's director, Scott Bloch, had prepared a flowery speech that was later posted on the agency's website, referencing Sophocles and The Shawshank Redemption ... Congress passed a wave of anti-retaliation measures, including the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, which established the Office of Special Counsel, and the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act. But today, many of these safeguards are gone or at serious risk. In 2005, the Washington-based Project on Government Oversight reported that the Whistleblower Protection Act has "suffered from a series of crippling judicial rulings [that] have rendered the Act useless, producing a dismal record of failure for whistleblowers and making the law a black hole."

POGO Alert - Who Will Blink First? White House and OSC Investigate Each Other: Bloch Must Recuse Himself, April 24, 2007.

Special Counsel Accused Of Intimidation in Probe, Washington Post, February 16, 2007, by Elizabeth Williamson.
A trouble-plagued whistle-blower investigation at the Office of Special Counsel -- whose duties include shielding federal whistle-blowers -- hit another snag this week when employees accused the special counsel of intimidation in the probe. The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has been investigating allegations by current and former OSC employees that Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch retaliated against underlings who disagreed with his policies -- by, among other means, transferring them out of state -- and tossed out legitimate whistle-blower cases to reduce the office backlog. Bloch denies the accusations, saying that under his leadership the agency has grown more efficient and receptive to whistle-blowers. … This week, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Project on Government Oversight, the Government Accountability Project and Human Rights Campaign and a lawyer for the OSC employees protested in a letter to legislators and to Clay Johnson III, the Office of Management and Budget deputy who ordered the OSC probe.

Report shows little progress reducing case backlog at OSC, GOVEXEC.COM, November 9, 2006, by Jenny Mandel.
A federal agency that handles complaints of improper personnel actions made little headway in reducing its case backlog, despite an intensive year-long attempt to do so, according to a report released Tuesday. Published more than a year after the reporting period, the Office of Special Counsel's fiscal 2005 annual report touted a major effort to reduce a backlog in employee complaints of prohibited personnel practices. … But after starting 2005 with an inventory of 524 cases to resolve, OSC finished the year with almost as many -- 521 cases -- to be passed along. … Adam Miles, legislative representative with the Government Accountability Project, said that under Special Counsel Scott Bloch, OSC is "not holding agencies' feet to the fire like they did when [his predecessor] Elaine Kaplan was there." … A group of anonymous OSC employees, as well as PEER, GAP and the Project on Government Oversight, have filed a complaint against Bloch alleging numerous prohibited personnel practices including discrimination, retaliation and political bias.

U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch Issues Inappropriate Fashion Advice. To learn more read POGO’s Blog entry or The Washington Post, September 7, 2006.

On Government Back Lot, Act 2 Of a Merit System Drama Opens, Washington Post, October 27, 2005.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel traditionally has been a low-profile corner of the bureaucracy where whistle-blowers and other federal employees can seek protection against unfair treatment.

Announcement that Office of Personnel Management Inspector General will investigate Office of Special Counsel, October 20, 2005.

OPM investigator launches probe of Office of Special Counsel chief,, October 19, 2005.
The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has begun an investigation into charges that the head of the small, independent agency responsible for protecting federal employees against prohibited personnel practices, including retaliation, improperly retaliated against his own employees. read this article

Letter from Attorney representing OSC employees, POGO and others expressing concerns about how investigation will be handled, October 18, 2005.

Letter from Office of Personnel Management indicating that an investigation has been opened in response to complaint filed by POGO, OSC employees and others, October 17, 2005.

Attorney for OSC Staff, POGO and Others Urges Investigation be Opened, October 12, 2005.

Representatives John Conyers and Barney Frank request a Government Accountability Office investigation into the Office of Special Counsel, July 28, 2005.

Log Cabin Republicans Call on President Bush to fire OSC head Scott Bloch, June, 2005. Follow the link to write a letter to President Bush.

Letter from POGO to Senate Disputing Office of Special Counsel Testimony, May 31, 2005.

In May, the Senate held oversight hearings on the Office of Special Counsel which featured many of the concerns raised by POGO and others. The hearing, “Safeguarding the Merit System: A Review of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel,” was held by Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, May 24, 2005.

Special Counsel Answers Critics: Ahead of Hearing Today, Bloch Claims Progress in Case Backlog, Washington Post, May 24, 2005.
In a new report, Scott J. Bloch touts his efforts to reduce a chronic backlog at the Office of Special Counsel and attempts to refute criticism that the agency he leads does too little to help civil servants who disclose waste, fraud and abuse.

POGO Alert - FBI to Investigate Whistleblower Protection Agency: New Complaint Charges Partisanship in Enforcement of Hatch Act, March 31, 2005.

Amended Complaint filed by POGO and others alleging the Special Counsel violated personnel rules, March 31, 2005.

Agency's Reorganization Results in Accusations, Employees Leaving, Washington Post, March 18, 2005.
A contentious reorganization has snarled operations at the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency created by Congress to protect workplace rights of federal employees.

Federal Whistleblower Office Faces Criticism, National Public Radio, March 10, 2005.
The Office of Special Counsel, which offers federal whistleblowers protection from retaliation, is now the target of a complaint.

Letter from Representative Christopher Shays to U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch concerning the complaint filed by anonymous OSC employees, POGO, PEER and GAP. March 9, 2005 .

Letter from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman; and Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Chairman George Voinovich and Ranking Member Daniel Akaka to U.S. Special Counsel Bloch. March 7, 2005 .

POGO Alert - Whistleblower Staff Blow the Whistle on Special Counsel, March 3, 2005.

Complaint filed by POGO and others alleging the Special Counsel violated personnel rules, March 3, 2005.

Exhibits for the Complaint, March 3, 2005.

Letter from Office of Special Counsel staff to Congress, January 13, 2005.

Additional Resources

For more information, see Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s web site.

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