24 May 2007

GSA Administrator, Lorita Doan Found To Have Violated The Hatch Act

The Office of Special Counsel has announced its findings on the first leg of their investigation surrounding the US Attorney firings and the GSA involvement in asserting inappropriate and illegal political influence.

That aspect of the investigation was focused on a January 26, 2007 meeting at the GSA where GSA Administrator, Lorita Doan, along with some 30 of her employees met with Karl Rove aide Scott Jennings who made PowerPoint presentations on the elections titled "2008 House Targets: Top 20". At that meeting, Doan was found to have asked GSA political appointees how they could "help our candidates" win the next election.

The Hatch Act restricts executive branch employees from using their position for political purposes.

"Her actions, to be certain, constitute an obvious misuse of her official authority and were made for the purpose of affecting the result of an election," investigators said in a copy of the 19-page OSC report. "One can imagine no greater violation of the Hatch Act than to invoke the machinery of an agency, with all its contracts and buildings, in the service of a partisan campaign to retake Congress and the Governors' mansions."

In sworn testimony to the OSC investigators, Doan's defense consisted of the following:

1. She was not paying any attention to the presentation or comments because she dislikes PowerPoint presentations, she was uninterested in the topic, and she does not care about polls.

2. She was not paying any attention to the presentation or comments because she was busy during the entire meeting reviewing and sending e-mail on her Blackberry.

3. Doan also said that GSA political appointees who gave testimony to investigators were biased. "There is not a single one of those who did not have somewhere in between a poor to totally inferior performance," Doan said in her statement.

OSC investigators pulled the personal and GSA e-mail records for Ms. Doan and found her statements about being busy e-mailing on her Blackberry to be completely uncorroborated as there was no email activity seen during the time of the meeting; the nearest e-mail activity being anywhere from 5 - 23 hours before and/or after the meeting.

OSC investigators examined all the performance records for the appointees who gave testimony and were the subject of Ms. Doan's assertions on their performance. Those assertions were found to be "unsupported and contradicted by the documentary evidence," as all of those performance reviews showed a "meeting expectations" level or higher. One or more of those appointees had the highest review rating and one or more of them had received performance awards.

This is astounding. If you re-visit in your mind exactly what the Hatch Act is and protects you realize that Ms. Doan, in making these assertions, violates the Hatch Act---while testifying to the OSC for her alleged violations of the Hatch Act.

During her testimony with the OSC, Ms. Doan was asked specifically about comments she allegedly made in the meeting. This might offer an insight into the tenor of her testimony:

Question: Is your testimony that you never said, how do we help our candiates, or something to that effect? Or is it that you don't remember saying anything like that?

Ms. Doan: I don't understand the difference. I just do not understand the difference that you're trying to make because if you don't remember the comment, how can you ascertain that you made or didn't make the comment? How does this work? I don't understand this.

The OSC report goes on to say, "The veracity of Administrator Doan's testimony that she, an English major, did not understand the difference is suspect in light of her March 28, 2007 testimony before the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform where she had no problem understanding the distinction. Specifically, she was questioned and testified as follows:

Tom Davis: Now, we're told by some witnesses--there are some witnesses that say you said something, some that say you didn't, and it was a long time ago. did anybody at any point say these were inappropriate subjects, where somebody said, "We should move away from this?" Do you remember any of that?

Ms. Doan: I really do not remember anything about this meeting.

Tom Davis: OK. But you don't deny what people are saying. You're just saying...

Ms. Doan: No, no. I'm not denying what they're saying. I'm simply saying there were cookies on the table. I remember coming in late. I remember we had--it seemed like we had quite a few people who were actually missing.

I am honestly not prone to petty arguments but I am continually amazed at the level to which one can rise in our government with no discernable intellect. This is a woman who is the highest ranking official of a powerful federal agency who blatantly used her office, position and subordinates to further a political agenda, in violation of federal law; an act that may very well end her career, and of the meeting where this took place, her only notable recollection is that there were cookies on the table. I suppose we can hope there will come a day when government officials who practice abject stupidity do so in violation of federal law.

In their analysis and findings section of the report, the OSC makes the following statements:

"After conducting a thorough investigation into the complaint, the Special Counsel has concluded that Administrator Doan's actions were in violation of the Hatch Act."

"The GSA Administrator displayed no reservations in her willingness to commit GSA resources, including its human capital, to the Republican Party."

"Because Administrator Doan is a Presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate, the President, not the Merit Systems Protection Board, must make any decision regarding imposition of disciplinary action."

"Because Ms. Doan, as the head of GSA, engaged in conduct before her subordinate employees that violated a federal law that is intended to protect the federal workplace from political influence and ensure that government resources are being administered in a nonpartisan fashion, her disregard for such protections and safeguards is serious and warrants punishment."

"Moreover, during his campaign, the President promised to demand the highest standard of ethics from all members of his team and nothing less should be expected from the GSA Administrator."
(emphasis most definitely added)

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