Two gay Obama administration officials and the Human Rights Campaign were lumped in as defendants with former Bush administration operative Karl Rove and more than a dozen others in a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by anti-gay Bush official Scott Bloch.
The 64-page lawsuit, filed last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, charges the defendants – including former GOP Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia – with conspiring to force Bloch out of his job as head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel through a trumped up criminal investigation.
News of the lawsuit, which was first reported by Courthouse News Services, hasn’t been widely reported in major news media outlets.
Bloch and his wife, who is a party to the suit, are seeking $102 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.
Bloch, who served as director of the Office of Special Counsel from 2004 to October 2008, pleaded guilty in April 2010 to a charge of contempt of Congress. The guilty plea followed a lengthy investigation that included an FBI raid on his office and home in May 2008.
The investigation stemmed from allegations that Bloch improperly sought to purge employees in his office who disagreed with him and later sought to cover up possible wrong-doing by hiring a computer services company to “scrub” files from his government office computer.
A federal judge in Washington sentenced him on March 30 to one month in jail in connection with his guilty plea but agreed to stay the sentence while Bloch appeals it on grounds that he didn’t know the contempt of Congress law carries a mandatory minimum jail term of 30 days.
The gay Obama administration officials named in Bloch’s suit are John Berry, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Elaine Kaplan, OPM’s general counsel. Kaplan preceded Bloch as head of the Office of Special Counsel during the Clinton administration.
While working as an attorney in private practice after her term ended as U.S. Special Counsel, Kaplan joined others who criticized Bloch for dismantling LGBT-supportive policies at the Special Counsel’s office that Kaplan established there.
Kaplan and others argued that an existing U.S. civil service law protected federal workers from discrimination based solely on their sexual orientation through a provision that barred bias for non-work related factors. Bloch, upon taking office after being appointed by President George W. Bush, reversed Kaplan’s policies, saying he disputed the assumption that the civil service law could be interpreted to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In his lawsuit, Bloch alleges that the Bush White House demanded that he back off from reversing Kaplan’s polices at the Office of Special Counsel, saying White House aides threatened to arrange for his dismissal if he failed to comply with their request.
Bloch and his wife, who are representing themselves in the case, filed their suit under a federal statute called the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The statute allows both criminal and civil charges to be brought in cases where the government or a private party alleges that others conspired to commit an illegal act or to damage a person or a business through a “criminal enterprise.”
Other parties named as defendants in the lawsuit include the Executive Office of the President, the Office of Special Counsel, the National Treasury Employees Union, and several government watchdog groups, including the Government Accountability Project.
In his lawsuit, Bloch names Berry as a defendant only in his capacity as director of the Office of Personnel Management, making no allegations that Berry played a role in Bloch’s forced resignation as head of the Office of Special Council during the Bush administration.
However, Bloch repeatedly alleges in the lawsuit that OPM as a government agency “conspired” with others in the Bush administration to force his ouster because, among other things, he was investigating possible breaches of government ethics rules by Bush White House staffers, including Karl Rove, and officials with other government agencies.
The lawsuit alleges that Kaplan was a party to the alleged effort to oust him from his post as head of the Office of Special Counsel in her role as general counsel to the National Treasury Employees Union, which opposed Bloch’s policies and practices at the OSC. Kaplan became general counsel to NTEU shortly after her five-year term as head of the Office of Special Counsel ended.
The lawsuit alleges that Kaplan joined other organizations and individuals who disagreed with Bloch’s policies and sought his removal.
It says the Human Rights Campaign was among several outside groups that Kaplan and others worked with to discredit Bloch and “conspire” to oust him from office. During his tenure as head of the Office of Special Counsel, HRC criticized Bloch for rolling back his office’s protections for gay federal workers.
“We don’t believe this case has any merit,” said HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz.
“[F]rom 2005 to the present, both as counsel for National Treasury Employees Union, and plaintiffs are informed and believe and thereon allege, that in her current role as general counsel of OPM, [Kaplan] is conspiring with or has conspired with third parties to damage plaintiffs as hereinafter alleged, improperly, illegally, and against the Ethics in Government Act, both as to her involvement in previous issues as Special Counsel of the OSC, and as general counsel of OPM with conflicts of interest, personal and official, and to conspire to harm plaintiffs…,” Bloch says in his lawsuit.
The lawsuit charges that Kaplan and those she allegedly conspired with sought to “disrupt official investigations, undermine official functions in the Office of Special Counsel, divert loyalty of employees away from Scott Bloch, and otherwise seek to undermine and harm plaintiffs in their reputation and family life.”
Berry and Kaplan or a spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit can be read in its entirety on the Courthouse News Service website: http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/04/29/Bloch.pdf