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Archive for Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Criticized special counsel to step down in January

October 21, 2008

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— The nation's top protector of whistle-blowers, who himself is being investigated for allegedly retaliating against employees, said Monday he would resign at the end of his term in January instead of staying on until a replacement can take over.

Under the law, U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch, formerly a lawyer in Lawrence, Kan., could stay for up a year - until his successor is confirmed by the Senate - after his term ends Jan. 5. But in a letter to President Bush, Bloch said he would leave at the end of his five years on the job, much of which has been marked by criticism and calls for his resignation.

"As you well know, doing the right thing can result in much criticism and controversy from every side," Bloch wrote in his two-page resignation letter.

"I have often been required to be the bearer of bad news but also of good results," he wrote.

The White House confirmed it received Bloch's letter Monday night.

Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel, said Bloch was not asked to resign.

Critics have termed Bloch's tenure as special counsel as "bizarre," and lawmakers repeatedly have demanded he step down as head of the federal agency responsible for protecting the rights of federal workers and ensuring that government whistle-blowers are not subjected to reprisals.

Bloch has been on the hot seat since he took office in 2004, in part for closing hundreds of whistle-blower cases allegedly without investigating them.

Some of his investigations were widely applauded. His resignation letter boasted of cutting a backlog in cases and protecting reserve military personnel from losing jobs or benefits when called on active duty.

And last year, Bloch recommended that the Bush administration's then-GSA chief, Lurita Doan, be disciplined for engaging in illegal political activities and doling out no-bid awards. Doan resigned in April at the White House's behest.

A week later, the FBI raided Bloch's office and home amid allegations that he destroyed evidence and potentially lied to Congress during an Office of Personnel Management investigation of his own conduct.

OPM's inspector general was investigating a 2005 complaint, filed by current and former Office of Special Counsel staffers, that Bloch intimidated and transferred employees who opposed his policies.

Bloch has denied any wrongdoing.

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