Post submitted by Brian Moulton, Former HRC Legal Director
Today, the Office of Special Counsel released a report from the Inspector General of the Office of Personnel Management on his investigation of former Special Counsel Scott Bloch, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2004.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal agency whose primary mission is to “safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing, and to serve as a safe channel for allegations of wrongdoing.” Bloch’s tenure was marked by controversy, including a widely-criticized effort to eliminate workplace protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual federal employees, and he was ultimately dismissed in disgrace and convicted of lying to Congress. The report released today is in response to a complaint about Bloch’s actions filed in 2005 by the law firm of Katz, Marshall and Banks on behalf of several former OSC employees along with HRC, Government Accountability Project, Project on Government Oversight and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
When Bloch took over the leadership of OSC in early 2004, he promptly began a campaign to overturn a longstanding interpretation of federal civil service law that prohibited discrimination against federal workers based on sexual orientation and removed all references to protections for LGB federal workers from the OSC website. The Inspector General’s report concludes that Bloch had decided to reverse these protections before he took office and made doing so one of his "highest and most immediate priorities for action by OSC under his direction." The report also concludes that Bloch had a "negative personal attitude toward homosexuality and individuals whose orientation is homosexual," with his official email account containing "crude and vulgar messages containing anti-homosexual themes that appeared to have been forwarded from his personal email."
The Inspector General also found that Bloch’s effort to “scrub” the references to sexual orientation protections “occurred hurriedly,” “without a plan to explain or justify it” and “in an apparent failure – whether willful or not – to realize it affected, our could be perceived as affecting, significant numbers of Federal employees.” This conclusion is supported by the fact that, after a public outcry arose, the Bush White House publicly rebuked the effort and reiterated its commitment to nondiscrimination in the federal workforce.
HRC is pleased to have been a part of the effort to expose Bloch’s efforts and ensure that a formal investigation took place. We thank OPM and OSC for releasing these important findings and hope that they serve as a warning to others who would seek to further a personal anti-LGBT agenda through public office. Thankfully, under the leadership of President Obama, former OPM Director John Berry, and current Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, there is no question that the federal government is committed to ensuring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are welcome and supported as public servants.