Scott Bloch

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Scott J. Bloch
Scott-Bloch.jpg
Born New York City, New York
Education University of Kansas School of Law
Spouse(s) Catherine Bloch
Children Seven children
Parents Walter Black
Website
Official website

Scott Bloch (b. circa 1959) is an American attorney and former political appointee of President George W. Bush. Bloch served as United States Special Counsel from December 12, 2003, when Bush signed his appointment, filling out his five year statutory term on December 11, 2008. Bloch achieved a great deal of oversight while in the United States Office of Special Counsel, which was widely reported on during his five year tenure, including aviation near miss cover ups and airworthiness safety check cover ups that caused the grounding of 1000 planes.[1] Since 2009, he practices law in Washington, D.C. in the areas of complex litigation, government contracts, injured contractors abroad, class actions, and employment matters in the federal and private sector.[2] He has sued Blackwater Worldwide and Xe Services, formerly Blackwater, alleging that Blackwater deprived thousands of security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan of their employment benefits and retirement benefits by misclassifying them as independent contractors.[3]

Biography[edit]

Bloch was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles, where his father, who used the name Walter Black, was a writer for a number of popular television shows. Scott Bloch worked as an associate and then partner for Stevens & Brand, LLP of Lawrence, Kansas between 1989 and 2001.[4] Beginning in 2001, Bloch worked as a political appointee in the Bush administration, first as deputy director to the Department of Justice's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives between 2001 and 2003, and then as Special Counsel, directing the Office of Special Counsel, which has jurisdiction to protect whistleblowers and enforce the Hatch Act (which restricts political activities of government employees). Bloch currently maintains a private law office in Washington, D.C. Bloch is a grandson of American modernist artist Albert Bloch, about whom he filmed a documentary in 2002.[5] Bloch also served on the Founders' Committee of Wyoming Catholic College from 2002 to 2005, and is a member of the Knights of Malta and a local society of admirers of Hilaire Belloc.

Controversies[edit]

The controversies surrounding Bloch stem from an attempt by those who disagreed with his policy and prosecutorial decisions to "criminalize political differences," as reflected in a 2008 Weekly Standard piece, on how the United States Office of Special Counsel, disciplined head of the General Service Administration, Lurita Doan for violating the Hatch Act. Doan was nominated by President George W. Bush then sworn into office on May 26, 2006. She resigned on April 29, 2008 following a period of internal GSA conflicts with the agency’s inspector general and a number of congressional and special counsel inquiries.[6]Bloch reversed a policy decision by his predecessor, on issues of sexual orientation, to make “sexual orientation” a protected category for discrimination cases in the federal government, contrary to controlling case law and statutory interpretation of the office of 20 years prior to her tenure.[7]

Bloch was non partisan in his decisions and frequently pursued complaints vigorously against his own party and high level members of the Bush Administration, which in part explains why he was so violently attacked. The Weekly Standard reported the difficulty of categorizing Bloch or his bold actions against top Bush officials.[8]

Bloch's first major action as head of the Office of Special Counsel, was to choose as deputy a lawyer who had publicly taken a position against the "homosexual agenda", and to hire young lawyers from the conservative Ave Maria School of Law.[9] Part of the job of the OSC is to protect whisleblowers.

In fact, the attempt to stop OSC’s investigations and discredit Bloch came a week after his investigation forced Lurita Doan, from office, on April 29, 2008, and a month after several hearings Bloch caused on aviation safety cover ups of the Bush Administration that resulted in 1000 planes being grounded, and the firing of high level policy makers in the Bush Administration In February 2004, Bloch ordered all mention of sexual orientation workplace nondiscrimination be removed from OSC's website and printed materials, stating that his office lacked the authority to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[10] Bloch's critics argued that gay employees were protected by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which prohibits discrimination against federal employees "on the basis of conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee."[11]

After complaints from Congress,[12] the Bush Administration released a statement in April 2004 saying homosexual employees were still protected.[13] Bloch also issued a statement saying: "It is the policy of this administration that discrimination in the federal workforce on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited." [14]

This did not satisfy gay rights organizations, which claimed a lack of enforcement of the policy. The OSC has still not restored the language on its website or printed materials.[15][16] The Federal GLOBE (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Employees of the Federal Government) then called for Bloch's resignation.[17]

Bloch later retracted his statements and stated his office did not have the legal authority to protect employees from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Alleged Refusal to investigate complaints[edit]

Media sources, Congress, and gay rights organizations continued to criticize Special Counsel Bloch and the OSC's lack of enforcement of its policies, particularly in regards to dismissing gay discrimination complaints. For example, Michael Levine, a 65-year-old and openly gay radio technician, claimed that, after he blew the whistle on a coworker's and his supervisor's workplace misconduct, a personnel officer engaged in retaliatory action against him: pursuing knowingly false allegations of child pornography against Levine, suspending Levine for 14 days, seizing his computer, and referring to gay people as "those fucking faggots".[18]One year after filing both a retaliation and antigay discrimination complaint with the OSC, Levine received a letter from the OSC on December 28, 2004. Without interviewing even a single witness, the OSC wrote that it was unable to investigate the complaints because only conduct, not sexual orientation, was protected under the Civil Service Act of 1978[18]—a reversal of Bloch's April 8, 2004 statement that sexual orientation-based discrimination was prohibited due to imputed conduct and therefore that the OSC has the authority to pursue such complaints.[14]

After being embroiled in a related "internal purge" controversy (see below), Special Counsel Bloch testified before a Senate panel on May 24, 2005 and reiterated his original position that he lacked the authority to protect federal employees on the basis of sexual orientation.[19] The next day, the Log Cabin Republicans called on Bloch to resign.[20]

Bloch's defenders, including writers at the conservative magazine Human Events, argued that Bloch was being unfairly attacked.[21]

Reorganization or Internal Purge[edit]

In January 2005, controversy ensued when Bloch ordered twelve OSC staffers, including the only two known gay employees, to transfer to distant cities or lose their jobs.[22] Bloch was accused of conducting a political purge of OSC employees by three government watchdog groups (the Government Accountability Project, the Project on Government Oversight, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), two federal trade unions (the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union), an LGBT rights organization (the Human Rights Campaign), and the OSC employees themselves.[23] This prompted several government investigations concerning Bloch's performance as a public employee, including destruction of emails and lying to Congress about it.

The Washington Blade reported that, according to unnamed sources "familiar with the agency", employees had been targeted partly because of their disagreement with diminishing the jurisdiction of the OSC in prosecuting antigay workplace discrimination.[24] Another of the twelve employees had reached a favorable settlement on behalf of a gay federal employee who filed a discrimination complaint against his supervisor.[22] In the end, ten of the twelve employees resigned.[25] Meanwhile, according to complaints, at least one staffer who had been supportive of Bloch's interpretation was promoted.[11]

In October 2005, the US Office of Personnel Management ordered an investigation of claims that Special Counsel Bloch retaliated against employees who disagreed with his policies. Ironically, the OSC would ordinarily oversee such whistleblower disputes. The probe is also investigating whether Bloch showed an antigay bias in refusing certain whistleblower and discrimination claims.[11]

In February 2007, Bloch was again accused of unfair supervisor practices when several of his staffers complained they felt coerced into not cooperating with the OPM probe. Bloch's deputy issued a memo urging OSC employees to only meet with probe investigaters in a certain conference room and to report their interactions to their supervisors. Employees reported other attempts to obstruct the investigation including "suggestions that all witnesses interviewed ... provide Bloch with affidavits describing what they had been asked and how they responded."[26]

Alleged improper deletion of emails on office computers[edit]

Bloch became most notorious for hiring "Geeks on Call", a private technological services company, to perform a "seven level swipe" of his home and office computers in 2007 after becoming involved in litigation with OSC subordinates who accused him of politically motivated harassment.[27][28] This prompted several government investigations concerning Bloch's performance as a public employee, including destruction of emails and lying to Congress about it. Bloch pleaded guilty to criminal charges of contempt of Congress in 2010, but was allowed to withdraw that plea in 2011 after being sentenced by the U.S. Magistrate Judge to serve 30 days in jail in addition to other conditions, of which imprisonment (and public chastisement) his attorney, William M. Sullivan Jr. of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors had not expected. Bloch later pled guilty again in U.S. District Court, this time to the misdemeanor of destroying government property, and was sentenced in June 2013 to serve two years probation and a day in jail, as well as to pay a $5000 fine and devote 200 hours to community service.[29] After the OSC settled with the disgruntled former employees concerning the 2006-2008 charges, the Inspector General of the Office of Personnel Management issued a report critical of Bloch's conduct in office.[30][31][32]

It is alleged that Scott Bloch erased the files on his office personal computer in 2007, and that the FBI tried to determine whether the emails were deleted improperly. The inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management examined the case at the urging of the White House. The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2007 that Bloch called the tech support service Geeks on Call for help deleting computer files instead of using his agency's own in-house computer technicians. Bloch confirmed that he contacted Geeks on Call, but insisted that it was to remove a computer virus.

FBI raid[edit]

On May 6, 2008, FBI agents raided Bloch's offices. NPR and the Wall Street Journal reported that the raids were in relation to an investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice by Bloch's office.[33] The New York Times reported that the investigation concerned whether Bloch had hired an outside company to "scrub" computer files to prevent an inquiry into whether he had violated the Hatch Act by mixing politics with his job, which is to shield whistleblowers.[34]

As part of an investigation into destruction of evidence, Bloch's person was searched and two portable memory devices were recovered.[35]

On October 20, 2008, Bloch announced his intention to resign from his position as Special Counsel at the OSC on January 5, 2009. But his employment ended abruptly on October 23, during a meeting with White House officials. He was subsequently barred from entry to his office by the United States Federal Protective Service, which handles security at federal facilities.[36]

Criminal conviction[edit]

On April 27, 2010 Bloch pled guilty to criminal contempt of Congress for, according to the U.S. Attorney, "willfully and unlawfully withholding pertinent information from a House committee investigating his decision to have several government computers wiped ...."[37] Bloch was originally slated to be sentenced on July 20, 2010. However, the sentencing was postponed after watchdog groups objected to a plea deal which would likely have seen Bloch get only probation. Contempt of Congress carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison. On February 2, Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson ruled that Bloch faced a mandatory sentence of at least one month in prison.[38]

On June 24, 2013, U. S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins sentenced Bloch to one day in jail and two years' probation, and also ordered him to pay a $5000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service.[39]

References[edit]

  1. ^ NBC Nightly News, Tom Costello, March 2008, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/23596929#23596929
  2. ^ Scott J. Bloch, P.A., http://www.dcresultslawyers.com/
  3. ^ B. Sizemore, “Ex-Blackwater Xe Workers File $60M class Action Lawsuit,” The Virginian Pilot, June 9, 2011, http://hamptonroads.com/2011/06/exblackwaterxe-workers-file-60m-class-action-lawsuit.
  4. ^ accessed 13 March 2014
  5. ^ Biles, Jan. "Bloch on Bloch," Lawrence Journal-World, 7 April 2002, accessed 10 November 2013.
  6. ^ [7][8][9]
  7. ^ http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/769bpqpa.asp?page=2
  8. ^ http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/769bpqpa.asp?page=2
  9. ^ Schulman, Daniel (2007-04-24). "Office of Special Counsel's War On Whistleblowers". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  10. ^ "Gay Federal Workers Fear for Jobs", Washington Blade, February 20, 2004
  11. ^ a b c "Bloch to be Probed on Anti-Gay Bias", Washington Blade, October 20, 2005
  12. ^ "Officials Question Appointee On Gay Bias", Washington Blade, February 27, 2004
  13. ^ "White House Rebukes OSC Director", Washington Blade, April 2, 2004
  14. ^ "Gay Workers Now Protected as OSC Reverses Stance", Washington Blade, April 16, 2004
  15. ^ The only results of a Google search of the OSC website for "sexual orientation" are a few press releases [1]. There is no information for federal employees on how to file antigay bias complaints, as the site had contained prior to Bloch's tenure.
  16. ^ "Federal GLOBE Joins Congressional Call to Fire OSC Head Scott Bloch", Federal GLOBE, October 7, 2004
  17. ^ a b "OSC Rejects Gay 'Whistleblower'", Washington Blade, March 4, 2005
  18. ^ "Official Says Law Doesn't Cover Gays", Washington Post, May 25, 2005
  19. ^ "Log Cabin Calls On Scott Bloch to Resign", Log Cabin Republicans, May 25, 2005
  20. ^ J. D’Agostino, “Five Myths About Scott Bloch,” Human Events, May 21, 2008, http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=26570
  21. ^ a b "2 Gays Among Those 'Purged' by OSC Boss", Washington Blade (January 28, 2005) [2]
  22. ^ "Reorganization of Special Counsel's Office Raises Concerns in Congress", Washington Post, February 1, 2005
  23. ^ "Gay OSC Employee Fired For Refusing Transfer Order, Washington Blade (February 18, 2005)
  24. ^ Amendment to Complaint of Prohibited Personnel Practices Against Special Counsel Scott Bloch, filed by the Project on Government Oversight (March 31, 2005)
  25. ^ "Special Counsel Accused of Intimidation in Probe", Washington Post February 16, 2007
  26. ^ Hamburger, Tom (May 1, 2007). "Bush appointee turns the spotlight inward". Los Angeles Times. 
  27. ^ [3]
  28. ^ http://legaltimes.typepad.com/blt/2013/06/former-bush-lawyer-to-spend-one-day-in-jail.html
  29. ^ http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2013/pr13_14.pdf
  30. ^ http://www.businessinsider.com/inspector-general-report-on-scott-bloch-2013-12
  31. ^ http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2013/12/final-report-confirms-misconduct-bush-era-office-special-counsel/75756/
  32. ^ FBI Raids Bush Official's Office
  33. ^ David Stout (2008-05-07). "F.B.I. Raids Office of Special Counsel". New York Times. 
  34. ^ "FBI Searched Bloch, Seized Flash Drives". NPR. 2008-05-08. 
  35. ^ "Congress Daily: White House Fires Scott Bloch", "Talking Points Memo - Muckraker", October 23, 2008
  36. ^ Elliott, Justin (April 27, 2010). "Ex-Bush Official Pleads Guilty To Contempt In Geeks On Call Case". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  37. ^ Hsu, Spencer. Bush whistle-blower protector faces jail. Washington Post, 2010-02-03.
  38. ^ Marimow, Ann E. "Former federal official sentenced to probation with a day in jail," The Washington Post, 24 June 2013, accessed 10 November 2013.

External links[edit]

Background[edit]

Federal complaint and investigation of Bloch[edit]

Other criticism and Bloch's response[edit]

written in response to the Post's September 11, 2006 article

Alberto Gonzalez investigation[edit]