Cause of Action Exposes Potential Hatch Act Violation at the FAA
Subordinates told “how to vote if they wanted to keep their job”
WASHINGTON – Cause of Action (CoA) released documents today revealing a potential Hatch Act violation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) involving John J. Hickey, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety at the FAA, and Raymond Towles, deputy director of flight standards field operations. At a May 23, 2012 staff meeting, Hickey 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 Flight Standards Division Office (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 telling employees “how to vote if they wanted to keep their job,” sources tell Cause of Action.
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, executive director of Cause of Action. “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.”
At the time of this release, CoA has not received a response from the OIG concerning the request for investigation. According to sources familiar with the matter, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has begun an investigation.
The letter to DOT OIG can be found here.
Internal emails from the FAA can be found here.
About Cause of Action:
Cause of Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses investigative, legal, and communications tools to educate the public on how government accountability and transparency protects taxpayer interests and economic opportunity. For more information, visit www.causeofaction.org.