Anyone may anonymously request an investigation into a Hatch Act violation with the Office of Special Council in Washington D.C., who will not reveal the identity of the individual making the request.
It is important to note that in a Hatch Act investigation, the investigator makes a recommendation of his/her opinion of a violation. That investigation may continue for due process upon the degree of the seriousness of the violation as determined by the investigator. One must assume due to the insignificance of the alleged violation in my case, the investigator chose to close the investigation and issue a warning without warranting further action.
In the case at hand, the investigator determined a Hatch Act violation based upon the following two situations:
1) A grant for juvenile alcohol enforcement received by the Sheriff's Office from the State of Utah and was administered by a sergeant in our Office. The investigation revealed that although this $2,500 was received by the Sheriff's Office from the State of Utah, the funds were received by the State from a Federal grant.
2) The Sheriff's Office has a contract with the U.S. Forest Service for law enforcement services. The Hatch Act statute specifically states "loans or grants." There is no reference to a federal "contract" for services rendered and services compensated anywhere in the statute; however, the investigator cited this as a violation.
The interpretation of the Hatch Act has become overly broad and is a political tool used to eliminate opponents in a partisan election. The Hatch Act and corresponding statute (Title 5 USC, Chapter 15) appear to prohibit the most qualified law enforcement officers from running as candidates for public offices, including the office of sheriff. Can this really be what best serves our community? In fact, it appears to suggest that few state or local government employees can be found free from an "alleged" Hatch Act violation.
In conclusion, one can certainly understand how the investigator in my case did not conclude my alleged violations as reasonably intentional. Rather, these were routine activities that a reasonable law enforcement supervisor would not consider in violation of the Hatch Act. Although I continue to remain in disagreement with the findings, I commend the investigator for her integrity in looking at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the alleged violation and for appropriately choosing to issue a warning.
Thompson is the sheriff of Weber County.