Sunday, November 30, 2008

Talk About Hatch Act Problems

In case anyone is keeping count, the Indianapolis City-County Council is comprised of about nine councilors whose election as City-County Councilors may have created Little Hatch Act problems. The newest addition to my list is Maggie Lewis, who was just elected at a party caucus to take the place of Cherrish Pryor, a county employee who was elected as a state representative. The Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column describes her work for a state agency that receives federal funding:

Lewis works for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, consulting for the Governor's Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana. She also consults for the Great Indy Neighborhood Initiative, which works to create and implement community improvement plans.

Yes, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute receives a significant amount of federal funding. The federal Hatch Act prohibits state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the federal government from engaging in political activities. Those activities include being a candidate for public office in a partisan office. The Act extends to nonprofit employees as well if the statute through which the organization receives its federal funds contains language which states that the organization shall be considered to be a state or local agency for purposes of the Hatch Act.

The Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, recently opined that Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett violated the Little Hatch Act by running for mayor in Terre Haute last year. Bennett worked for the Hamilton Center in Terre Haute, which received federal Head Start money for its day care center. Although Bennett's job primarily entailed work unrelated to the day care center, he was still found to have violated the Act. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a challenge by former Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke and declared the mayor's office vacant because of Bennett's Hatch Act violation. Bennett is appealing the ruling to the state's Supreme Court.

A summary of opinions on the OSC's website indicates that candidates for partisan public office have been found to have violated the Act when they worked for local law enforcement agencies, a county veterans services department, a state department of transportation agency, a transit authority, a local housing authority, a township building inspector's office, a county and a fire department.

Let's take a look at other city councilors whose partisan election to the Indianapolis City-County Council might have posed a Hatch Act problem if a challenge had been made to their candidacies:

  • Monroe Gray elected while working as a division chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department. He retired from the fire department at the end of last year.
  • Jackie Nytes, originally elected while serving as CFO of the Indianapolis/Marion Co. public library, she is currently serving as executive director of the nonprofit Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation.
  • Brian Mahern elected while working for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
  • Dane Mahern elected while working for the City's Department of Administration.
  • Mary Moriarty Adams was originally elected while working for the Indiana Housing Authority. She now works for the nonprofit National MS Society.
  • Vernon Brown elected while working as a battalion chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department.
  • Benjamin Hunter elected while working as a sergeant in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
  • Lincoln Plowman elected while working as a sheriff's deputy. He is now serving in a top management position in charge of investigations for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

It's something to chew on. I am also a strong believer that some of these folks' service on the City-County Council violates the Indiana Constitution, which bars someone from holding positions in two branches of government simultaneously as a classic separation of powers problems. You would think folks would understand the conflict of interest in participating in budgetary and administrative matters pertaining to the agency of government which employs you but obviously that is not the case. And if any of the named individuals have a beef with being put on this list, then kindly furnish me an OSC opinion you obtained before seeking election to a partisan office. I will gladly share it with the readers here.


Anonymous said...

The Hatch Act was enacted in 1939 during the Red Scare to give the government broad powers to fight (suspected) Communists, and to tey to prosecute union organizers (which was later prohibited by Taft-Hartley).

The government is an incoherent babble of vaguely-written laws intended for the perceived problems of the particular age they were written in.

Congress tried to repeal the Hatch Act a couple of times during the Residency of George Bush, but the first time, it failed in the Senate, then the second bill that would repeal it was vetoed by Dubya.

I don't believe that it should be repealed, I believe it should be modernized and worded a lot more clearly, with the prohibition on working on a political campaign as a federal employee applied ONLY to the Federal government, with an exception made if you are the candidate.

Anything else tramples on states rights (What federal laws don't anymore though?), and as appears to be the case here, selectively enforced and used as a weapon by political opponents.

Note: Among the "anti-communist" things the government did, the most notorious was the House Committee on Un-American Activities, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who sent subpoenas to half of Hollywood (Including Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy), Labor organizers, and basically all of the Republican party's political enemies, that way, even if they didn't convict you of anything, nobody would employ you because of the stigma. They were usually described as the House Committing Un-American Activities.

artfuggins said...

Since several officeholders of both parties are in conflict with the Hatch Act according to AI, it would seem that both the republicans and democrats do not interpret the laaw as you do.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Wow, TheAlmighty's history is really, really bad. The Hatch Act enacted in 1939 had nothing to do with the "Red Scare" which started AFTER the end of World War II which concluded in 1945.

Second, Joseph McCarthy was a Republican who was in the minority. He was not chairman of HUAC.

Third, the Hatch Act was substantially revised in 1993 to remove many of the original restrictions put into place in 1939. This was not included in TheAlmight's revisionist history.

Ted said...

On Dec 5 the Supreme Court will either allow or disallow the usurpation of both the Constitution and the Government of the United States — easily the most pivotal decision since our nation’s founding — and the silence of the news media is deafening (if not downright scary).

Gary R. Welsh said...

To my knowledge, nobody has filed a Hatch Act violation complaint against any of these individuals. Hell, our own county prosecutor won't even challenge a councilor's candidacy when she knows they don't live in their district. Their free ride is over. I pledge to file complaints against every single city councilor candidate who I believe may be in violation of the Hatch Act in the City's 2011 municipal election.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Ted, you are prone to gross exaggeration. What about Marbury v. Madison? What about Roe v. Wade? While Obama's citizenship is important, a court case dealing with the issue certainly is not the most "pivotal" decision since this country was founded.

schoolboardgreg said...

Would this prohibit the Superintendent of a public school (that receives Federal funds) from engaging in lobbyist activities on behalf of a school district that is registered as a lobbying organization?

Gary R. Welsh said...

The federal law conveniently exempts education and research from the reach of the Act.

Anonymous said...

Advance Indiana: Of course it exempts them.

Teachers unions make sure the school faculty gets obscene salaries, which they get from the public coffers, which they turn around and use as campaign contributions toe get more teacher union friendly politicians elected.

Really the victim in all of this becomes the children, I believe the last report I saw said that over 55% of public school funding goes to faculty paychecks.

The other thing I take issue with is how the sports teams get all the funding they want, even though they have no academic purpose.

When I was in middle school (1996 I believe), the teachers drove brand new cars into the lot every day, the football and basketball teams had all new gear, and my social studies book was teaching us about the Soviet Union and East/West Germany in the present tense.

Computer lab? Sure, 5 1/4" floppies, tape drives, connected to an Apple II running BASIC as an operating system, circa 1977.

Computer lab was an excuse to play moon lander for a half hour on a computer that was older than me.

Which is why I begged my parents to let me be home schooled (they did).

But that does explain, in my opinion, a lot of what's wrong with Indiana, we blow our education funds on greedy teacher unions and the football team.

(To be fair, Ditch Mitch appears to have done something there, but instead of cutting the fat, he just doubled property taxes to pay for it all.)

indyernie said...

Gary we just elected a teacher as a State Rep. Does the Hatch Act prevent a HS teacher from being elected to a State office?

7th CD guy said...

I pledge to file complaints against every single city councilor candidate who I believe may be in violation of the Hatch Act in the City's 2011 municipal election.
Why wait???? No better time than the present!!!

Since several officeholders of both parties are in conflict with the Hatch Act according to AI, it would seem that both the republicans and democrats do not interpret the laaw as you do.

Wilson46201/artfuggins finally stated something that resembles intelligence

Gary R. Welsh said...

As I stated above, Ernie, the Hatch Act exempts education. Teachers are not barred from seeking partisan public offices.