Feds investigate local FAA officials' endorsement of Democrats
The FAA's acting chief said the Office of Special Counsel is looking into the allegation that agency employees in Seattle were told to vote for Democrats as a potential violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits some government employees from engaging in partisan political activity.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A federal agency is investigating whether Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers told employees during a May meeting in Seattle that they should vote for Democrats in the upcoming election to avoid budget cuts, the FAA's acting chief said Wednesday.
Acting administrator Michael Huerta said the Office of Special Counsel is looking into the allegation as a potential violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits some government employees from engaging in partisan-political activity.
The acknowledgment of the investigation comes one week after a government-transparency group sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation about the mandatory meeting.
Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C.-based group, alleged that two senior managers said that if Democrats win elections this fall, the FAA will be fine, but that if Republicans win, there will be budget cuts resulting in a loss of jobs.
An Office of Special Counsel spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny the investigation.
The spokeswoman, Ann O'Hanlon, said the office is an independent investigative-prosecutorial agency that can take cases to a merit-protections board. In most cases, O'Hanlon said, the office settles with employees it believes have violated the Hatch Act, often resulting in a suspension.
The FAA's communications manager for the Northwest Mountain and Alaska regions declined to comment beyond a short statement.
"The FAA takes Hatch Act violation allegations very seriously and will cooperate fully with any review of the allegations," the communications manager, Allen Kenitzer, wrote.
The investigation acknowledgment came in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack during a House transportation subcommittee meeting.
Cravaack, a Minnesota Republican, cited the allegations about the meeting, called the statements allegedly made "extremely inappropriate" and asked "where these comments are coming from."
"It is certainly not coming from the (FAA) or the White House," Huerta responded.
Information from The Seattle Times archives in included in this report.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.