Holding the Government Accountable

Hostile Work Environment & E-Discovery: OSC Gives On-the-job Lessons

A retreat next week for the staff of the Office of Special Counsel at the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, VA looks like it's going to be a doozy. Most curiously, according to the agenda, it seems Special Counsel Scott Bloch thinks his staff needs training on a "hostile work environment" (11:00-12:00) and the practice of e-discovery (13:05-14:30).

A little background first. Bloch's office was raided by two dozen FBI agents last month. Their raid was precipitated by allegations that Bloch destroyed evidence sought by investigators when he hired Geeks on Call to conduct a seven-level wipe of his laptop computer. The evidence was being sought by the Office of Personnel Management, which has had an open investigation since 2005 into the hostile work environment Bloch created with retaliation, illegal gag orders, and flouting of personnel rules, among many other things.

According to one web definition, e-discovery is:

"Electronic discovery (also called e-discovery or ediscovery) refers to any process in which electronic data is sought, located, secured, and searched with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case."

It's a little ironic that the Justice Department, which just raided Bloch's office, home and person, is now training the OSC staff in e-discovery. It's a bizarre choice for the staff during a particularly dark time for them. Some 17 employees have been subpoenaed to testify before the Grand Jury considering evidence about Bloch's e-discovery obstruction. Yet Bloch still manages them every day. Few members of Congress, with the notable exception of House Oversight and Reform ranking member Tom Davis (R-VA), have stepped forward to make the reasonable assertion that Bloch be removed from his position. Having watched this for three years now, it seems the list of bizarre and potentially illegal behavior never ends. The most recent installment we learned of this week, when Bloch ordered employees to post propaganda about his performance anonymously on websites.