An employee of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement resigned and faced further punitive measures after it was revealed that she used her time while on the clock to campaign for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
As the Washington Times reported, the news broke this week in the form of a statement from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Though the employee was not named in the report, special counsel Henry J. Kerner described the Hatch Act violations she is accused of committing.
The federal law, which has been in effect since 1939, serves to restrict the political activities of individuals earning a taxpayer-based income.
As the OSC explained, the Hatch Act’s “purposes are to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.”
The unnamed ICE employee allegedly sent more than 100 separate politically themed messages through social media platforms ahead of the 2016 election. In addition to the posts urging voters to support Clinton, investigators believe she engaged in pro-Clinton activism while at work through conversations with her colleagues.
The messages were sent between March and November of 2016, according to the report.
“She also admitted to, while at work, telling coworkers to vote for Hillary Clinton and inviting them to attend a campaign rally,” the OSC statement added. “The punitive settlement terms considered that the employee had significant Hatch Act knowledge and received guidance from ICE via email and annual ethics training, but failed to change her behavior, even after OSC interviewed her.”
The special counsel explained the importance of nipping such conduct in the bud.
“When a federal employee emphatically and repeatedly engages in political activity while on duty or in the workplace, OSC takes that very seriously,” Kerner said.
In addition to tendering her resignation, the employee was also required to wait five years before seeking another position within the federal government.
“This employee thumbed her nose at the law and engaged in vocal partisan politics both with her colleagues and on social media,” the special counsel said.
According to Kerner, the employee should have been fully aware that her actions violated federal law.
“Considering her knowledge of the Hatch Act and continuing disregard for the law, this employee’s resignation and debarment from federal service are proportionate disciplinary actions,” he said.
The actions taken against this employee came after previous warning that her actions could get her in trouble. The OSC announcement indicated that she had been informed of possible ethics violations prior to the recent disciplinary measures.
As Kerner explained, the swift and decisive action against this employee should serve as a warning to other government employees to refrain from political activites.
“This case serves as an important reminder that federal employees must be mindful of the Hatch Act’s prohibitions, especially given the upcoming midterm elections,” he said.
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