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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 23, 2007

Bush bias official who deleted
gays is in trouble again

Washington, D.C.--The Bush administration official who handles whistleblower and discrimination claims by federal employees got in hot water three years ago for removing “sexual orientation” from his office’s website and complaint forms.

Now Special Counsel Scott Bloch is being investigated for abuse of power, and his supporters blame gays.

The investigation into his activities began in 2005 by Office of Personnel Management Inspector General Patrick McFarland when members of Congress, watchdog groups and federal employees unions compiled a long list of legal and ethical violations. Bloch had dismissed 500 whistleblower cases without review, and removed “sexual orientation” from his office’s materials.

Though no federal law specifically protects LGBT federal employees, a 1983 opinion written by then-associate attorney general Ted Olson has substituted.

Olson’s opinion says, “It is improper to deny employment to or to terminate anyone on the basis of either sexual preference or conduct that does not adversely affect job performance.”

Bloch arbitrarily took that position “under review” and didn’t enforce it until a congressional delegation led by Barney Frank of Massachusetts started calling for his resignation in 2004. The members of Congress accused Bloch of targeting gays for harassment by refusing to look into their complaints.

According to the law authorizing the special counsel, Bloch can only be removed “for cause” before his term ends in 2009. The probes into his behavior include criminal charges.

Prior to his appointment as special counsel in 2004, Bloch worked at the Justice Department, heading its Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Last month, Bloch’s deputy Rebecca McGinley ordered office of Special Counsel employees, mostly attorneys, to report when McFarland’s office has contact with them, and that the contact must take place in a special conference room in his office.

Days later, Bloch rescinded the location requirement.

However, the groups bringing the complaints, which include the LGBT group Federal GLOBE, accuse Bloch of “stonewalling” their investigations, which is fueling a campaign by conservative pundits to blame the LGBT groups.

“Bloch appears to be attempting to make himself into a right-wing martyr so that he will be canonized if he is canned,” said Jeff Ruch, who directs Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, one of the groups leading the charge against Bloch.

In a late 2006 column in the neoconservative Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes wrote that Bloch was being “persecuted” for “his removal of ‘sexual orientation’ from the list of conditions covered by anti-discrimination laws.”

“The struggle over Bloch’s stand is largely symbolic,” wrote Barnes. “OSC has received few complaints of bias against gays. But it led to a detailed complaint to Congress and a withering barrage of investigations.”

“Bloch, a lawyer from Kansas, is a Christian,” Barnes continued. “He and his wife Catherine have seven children.”

Anti-gay activist Phyllis Schlafly also came to Bloch’s defense in a November article in Bend Weekly, writing, “The gay lobby retaliated, instigating five investigations against Bloch. After all five cleared him of any wrongdoing, the response by the gay lobby was to initiate a sixth investigation.” Schlafly, ironically, has a gay son.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat chairing the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform introduced a bill February 13 that would provide new procedures for federal whistleblowers, including access to federal court in an attempt to keep complaints away from Bloch’s OSC.

 

 

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