The OSC stated that Julián Castro violated the Hatch Act during a Yahoo News interview on April 4, 2016. The report from the office said Castro’s statements during the interview “impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official agency business despite his efforts to clarify that some answers were being given in his personal capacity.”
According to the Hatch Act, federal employees are allowed to make opinionated remarks when speaking on their own accord but not when using their official title during an interview or when they are speaking about agency business.
The release shared that the OSC began conducting this investigation upon receiving a complaint about that particular interview. Castro was notified at the completion of the investigation by the OSC and responded to the report saying, “In responding to a journalist's question about the 2016 election, I offered my opinion to the interviewer after making it clear that I was articulating my personal view and not an official position. At the time, I believed that this disclaimer was what was required by the Hatch Act. However, your analysis provides that it was not sufficient.”
Castro acknowledges that an error was made on his part, though he said it was not intentional. “I appreciate your staff’s diligence and professionalism in assessing the content of the interview and the circumstances surrounding it, as well as the clarifications of law that your team provided.”
The office’s release stated the final step in an OSC Hatch Act investigation is to forward on a report to the President including a response from the official. Because of this violation, according the Hatch Act, Castro was subjected to a range of disciplinary actions, including removal from federal service, reduction in grade, debarment from federal service for a period not to exceed 5 years, suspension, letter of reprimand, or a civil penalty not to exceed $1000.
However, on Tuesday, July 19, the White House announced that Castro would not be punished for violating the Hatch Act.
“I think, to his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. "He owned up to it, and he's taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. I think that's the expectation that people have when you make a mistake, particularly in a situation like this."
The OSC could not be reached for a comment.
Click here to view the OSC's letter to to President Obama and the findings of the investigation.