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Office of Special Counsel

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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is "an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency" whose "basic authorities come from three federal statutes":[1] the Civil Service Reform Act (web), the Whistleblower Protection Act (web), and the Hatch Act (web).


Mission

"OSC's primary mission is to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing," according to its website. [2]

Whistleblowing cases

Tania Branigan reported in the July 21, 2003, Washington Post that the backlog of whistleblower cases was growing:

"Hundreds of whistleblower complaints about waste, fraud and abuse in government are going unexamined, with the backlog of cases at the Office of Special Counsel more than doubling in the past 18 months, according to newly obtained figures.
"Former special counsel Elaine Kaplan, who left office last month, said the problem was so intense that she believed only one case had been reviewed within the statutory period of 15 working days during her five years in office. The majority of the reports can take more than six months to resolve.
"Kaplan said the disclosure unit was a victim of its own success, receiving an increasing number of allegations as federal staff became aware of its work. The number of complaints has risen by almost half since October 1991 -- with 555 disclosures of wrongdoing filed in the fiscal year that ended September 2002 -- and staff has been unable to keep up.
"As of June 30, there were 628 cases awaiting review, two-thirds of which had been with the OSC for more than six months, according to figures from the agency's latest annual report and further internal statistics obtained by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which represents workers who have filed disclosures. At the end of 2001, 245 cases were pending.
"Nor does the increase in reports seem to reflect a rise in frivolous or unfounded claims; a greater proportion of disclosures was referred for investigation and fewer closed due to insufficient evidence.
"An OSC spokesman said the agency was aware of the backlog, but he did not provide further comment.
"Kaplan, who now works for the Washington law firm Bernabei and Katz, said the disclosure unit had only two staff members when she became special counsel. It now has eight full-time employees."

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act

"OSC protects the reemployment rights of federal employee military veterans and reservists under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)." [3]

Timothy W. Maier, wrote December 27, 2003, for WorldNetDaily that "Pink slips greet returning soldiers. Many U.S. military go from front lines to unemployment line":

"Capt. Sam Wright [ombudsman for the Reserve Officers Association] ... [who] helped draft USERRA, says that ... filing complaints with the Labor Department and relying on the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to investigate the charge, there would not have been a happy ending."
"'In the almost nine years since USERRA was enacted the OSC has brought not one single USERRA case to the MSPB,' Wright charges. He explains that the OSC position has been, 'Congress did not consult us before giving us this additional responsibility, and Congress did not give us any additional resources to do the job, so we just say no.'
"In a letter to Scott J. Bloch, who will take charge of the OSC as soon as the Senate confirms him, Wright suggested that Bloch's top priority should be to correct this problem. 'You should vigorously enforce USERRA, even if it means that you have to cut back on something else,' he wrote. 'The brave young men and women who have left their civilian jobs to serve our country under conditions of physical danger and financial deprivation certainly deserve no less.'
"During hearings before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Bloch indeed addressed the issue, saying, 'They did their job. Let's give them their job back.' But senior attorneys at the OSC let it be known that they were angered and shocked by Bloch's comments and suggest their new boss has been 'misinformed' and that there is a 'miscommunication problem.' Other senior officials at the OSC were quick to claim that very few of these cases are referred to the office and those that they do receive often are without merit.
"But Insight's analysis of these cases handled by the OSC during the last five years indicates a record that is far from stellar. During fiscal 1998 to fiscal 2002, the OSC handled 55 such cases. Of those, only one was referred to the MSPB (Merits System Protection Board). In two other cases, the OSC obtained some corrective action in favor of the veteran, but 46 other cases were declined outright while six still are pending. Some of the cases, the OSC claims, concern unfounded discrimination complaints. Little wonder that veterans see the OSC as a losing proposition."

Organization

See OSC Organizational Chart.

Contact information

Website: http://www.osc.gov/

Related SourceWatch articles

Resources and articles

Press releases

External articles

Articles by Scott J. Bloch

2004

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2007