Most Feds Won’t Actually Be Able to Hold Partisan Office and Keep Their Day Jobs, Despite Precedent

While a newly established precedent allows federal employees to concurrently hold elected partisan office, the agency that enforces the related laws now says it does not plan to allow them to do so going forward.

The recently reconstituted Merit Systems Protection Board said in one of its first rulings after enduring five years without a quorum that a U.S. Postal Service employee, Rodney Cowan, did not have to give up his role as a country commissioner in Tennessee or quit his day job. An administrative judge had ruled that a settlement agreement Cowan struck with the Office of Special Counsel allowing him to keep both positions violated the Hatch Act, but the Board overturned that decision.

While the judge said the board has historically interpreted the law to block civil servants from concurrently holding political office, OSC successfully appealed after arguing a 2012 Hatch Act update made clear only that running for such a seat was prohibited. The employee agreed to a six-month suspension for violating the law, but was able to hold onto his elected seat and his postal position.


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