POGO, other public interest groups, and many federal employees were pleased to see that U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch presented his resignation letter to the President yesterday. While the next President will nominate a new Special Counsel for Senate confirmation, Special Counsel Bloch leaves behind a small but important agency in disarray.
Among other responsibilities, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) provides a safe channel for federal employees to disclose various workplace improprieties, including those that waste funds and pose a substantial danger to public health or safety. Thousands of federal employees also rely on the OSC to investigate and prosecute their cases of whistleblower retaliation. Whistleblowers and concerned insiders who disclose information about wrongdoing are, in most cases, the only way for Congress, watchdogs, and the news media to be alerted to executive branch corruption, other misconduct, and waste. For this reason, POGO watches the OSC closely.
POGO has been one voice in a chorus of critics-including Members of Congress, federal law enforcement agencies, the media, public interest groups, and even OSC staffers-who have been calling for Bloch to resign, or for the President to replace him. It is important to note that POGO only took the step of recommending the removal of Bloch after three years of trying to improve his management of the OSC.
Since his tenure began in 2004, Special Counsel Bloch has repeatedly demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding about whistleblowers, proper investigation procedures, employee free speech laws, and his responsibilities as a government manager. For example, the number of favorable actions that the OSC has taken to actually help whistleblowers has dropped by 60 percent since Bloch took over the agency.
"Even though the end of Bloch's rule has come later than we had hoped, we can now focus our attention on the hard work of repairing and reforming the OSC," said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. "It should be a priority of the next President to appoint a new Special Counsel who is qualified, competent, and free of partisan interests."
In the next month, POGO will be releasing an investigative report on the OSC's treatment of employees from the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), one of the groups that Special Counsel Bloch has heralded as a key beneficiary of his leadership.
"Despite Bloch's boasting, we could not find one case of a federal air marshal being effectively served by the OSC," explained POGO Investigator Ingrid Drake. "Instead, we found a number of problems at both the OSC and the Federal Air Marshal Service that need immediate attention."