Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hatch Act Violations can result in removal from office

The penalty for violating the 1939 Hatch Act can include removal from office or suspension of not less than thirty days. One case currently under review by the Indiana Court of Appeals is Burke vs. Bennett. Last December, ousted incumbent Mayor Kevin Burke filed a lawsuit to have Duke Bennett removed from office because he violated the Hatch Act during his campaign. (Mayor Duke Bennett is pictured above). If you would like more information about this case, visit Latte's archives.

Removal from office can occur if circumstances show a deliberate disregard for the Hatch Act.

There continues to be a debate about whether the Act allows for debarment from federal employment. However, the Merit Systems Protection Board has determined that the act does not authorize debarment of employees removed for violation of the Hatch Act.

Covered federal, local and certain non-profit employees should also be aware that certain political activities may also be criminal offenses under title 18 of the U.S. Code. Source:
Office of Special Counsel and Political Activity and the Federal Employee, pdf

Employees who are being investigated for alleged Hatch Act Violations can be represented by their own counsel during the investigation and during subsequent prosecution. If the special counsel finds a Hatch Act Violation(s) and decides to prosecute the violation(s), he or she must file a complaint against the subject employee with the Merit Systems Protection Board. An evidential hearing is conducted in front of an administrative law judge, and it is the special counsels responsibility to establish that the employee violated the Hatch Act.

Covered federal, local and certain non-profit employees can protect themselves from prosecution for violating the Hatch Act by requesting an advisory opinion from the OSC. Part-time legislators who have full time jobs with covered agencies can be prosecuted for violating the Hatch Act. There is no statute of limitations for filing Hatch Act complaints.

If your workplace receives federal funds to operate program, you may want to check with the Hatch Act Unit to make sure you are not covered under the Act.

Inquiries can be made by phone, fax, mail or email to: Hatch Act Unit, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20036-4505; Telephone: (800) 854-2824, (202) 653-7143; Fax: (202) 653-5161; Email:

Negotiating the Hatch Act:

photo of Mayor Duke Bennett courtesy of City of Terre Haute

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