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Washington, DC, Feb. 11, 2019 — The Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spending taxpayer money promoting President Trump’s reelection, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group seeks an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to determine which EPA officials were responsible for violations of the Hatch Act, forbidding partisan activity by executive branch employees, and determine the appropriate penalty.
On February 7, 2019, Ms. Mandy Gunasekara resigned as principal deputy administrator in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air and Radiation. In so doing, she submitted a letter of resignation on official EPA stationery to President Trump declaring that “Ensuring eight years of your leadership is of utmost importance” and decrying “dangerous rhetoric from the far-left supportive of Venezuelan-style socialism, government take-overs, and crony ‘green new deals.’”
The letter also announced her intention to launch “a new organization built to defend you and the many energy, regulatory and economic successes of your bold and pragmatic agenda.”
According to reporters, her letter was made available by the EPA office of Public Affairs.
The Hatch Act, also known as An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, forbids civil servants from engaging in political activities on official time or using official resources. The Act is enforced by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and penalties range from disciplinary action to removal from office.
In a complaint lodged today, PEER asks OSC to identify which EPA press office staff were involved in circulating or providing her letter and whether these actions were directed by more senior officials. Notably on the day of her resignation, acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a statement commending Ms. Gunaskara’s tenure at the agency.
“Federal offices should not be converted into Trump campaign centers,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Trump became a formally declared candidate for reelection shortly after his inauguration. “We are asking OSC to determine which officials and what official resources were involved in this patently partisan political activity.”
During this administration, EPA’s press office has been overly aggressive in attacking reporters and former employees who wrote or said things that put the agency in an unfavorable light.
“By all appearances, EPA is illegally using taxpayer dollars to promote political propaganda,” added Ruch, whose organization exposed the press office’s attempts to defame EPA officials who raised concerns about the direction of the agency. “Unfortunately, EPA’s Office of Public Affairs now operates like a political war room and seems to have lost sight of its public service obligations.”