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Fri, Sep 07, 2012

Two FAA Managers Allegedly Urged Workers To Vote For Democrats

Subordinates Told 'How To Vote If They Wanted To Keep Their Job'

ANN has been hearing bits and pieces of this story for a number of weeks, but now a political watchdog and transparency group called "Cause of Action" (CoA) has released documents it says reveals a potential Hatch Act violation at the FAA involving John J. Hickey, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety at the FAA, and Raymond Towles, deputy director of flight standards field operations. In a news release, the group says that at a May 23, 2012 staff meeting, Hickey allegedly told subordinates that “if the Republicans win office [their] jobs may be effected [sic]…if the Democrats win office then [their] jobs would not be effected [sic].” Additionally, Hickey and Towles held mandatory meetings with employees at other regional FAA offices, where similar comments may have been repeated.

Whistleblowers came forward after the May 23 meeting at the Seattle FSDO, alerting a Deputy Regional Counsel in the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region Office who is now conducting an investigation into both Hickey and Towles for allegedly telling employees “how to vote if they wanted to keep their job,” sources told the watchdog group.

In light of these allegations, Cause of Action sent a request for investigation to Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation Calvin L. Scovel III, urging “a swift investigation, not only into whether the comments made by Mr. Hickey and Mr. Towles at the Seattle FSDO violated the Hatch Act, but also whether their comments violated any other federal laws, as well as if they engaged in any other activities in violation of the Hatch Act or other applicable law.”

“The egregious abuse of power for political gain is exactly what Cause of Action aims to expose,” said Dan Epstein, the group's executive director. “These career employees were led to believe their jobs were at risk if their political support did not line up with the agenda of the Administration. The Hatch Act is designed to prevent such politicization and we are demanding that IG Scovel investigate any potential violations of federal law and make appropriate referrals to the Justice Department.”

The Hatch Act prohibits Executive agency employees from engaging in political activity intended to affect the result of an election.  As CoA’s letter to IG Scovel explains, “Previously, the Office of Special Counsel has indicated that such a standard also prohibits covered Executive agency officials from suggesting to subordinate employees that they undertake any partisan political activity.  Mr. Hickey and Mr. Towles’s alleged statements to FAA employees, in their roles as senior FAA management, amounts to illegal political activity under the Hatch Act.”

The OIG has not responded to the group concerning the request for investigation. According to sources familiar with the matter, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has begun an investigation. The FAA said in a prepared statement that it was taking the matter seriously and would "fully cooperate" with any investigation.

FMI: http://causeofaction.org

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