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Alexandria council member faces complaint about alleged Hatch Act violations

Updated 9:59 p.m.
Alexandria City Council member Alicia Hughes is facing a federal inquiry into whether she violated the Hatch Act, a law that limits political activity by federal employees.

The Alexandria Times reports that an attorney with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel contacted the local newspaper's offices earlier this week for information on Hughes, who is a patent examiner. The special counsel's office said it will not confirm or deny the inquiry.

The Hatch Act, for example, prohibits federal workers from using their federal position to influence elections and from being candidates in partisan elections. There are exceptions for employees who run for office as an independent.

Hughes said in a statement that she was made aware of the inquiry, but has been unable to confirm it.

"I do not have actual knowledge of what the allegations are, and therefore, I am not in a position to issue a substantive statement in response," Hughes said. She added that any citizen can file a complaint, "whether frivolous or non-frivolous."

"Unfortunately, a number of allegations and investigations have been launched against me since my election in May 2009 by persons more interested in politics than public service and people of varying persuasions (including political parties) working together to perfect One Alexandria," said Hughes who ran as an Independent with the Republican Party's backing.

Hughes serves on Gov. Bob McDonnell's government reform commission, which is considering his proposal to privatize the state's liquor system. Hughes made headlines in 2009 for not being a resident of Alexandria and for being registered as a Maryland voter when running for city council.

If the U.S. Office of Special Counsel finds someone has indeed violated the Hatch Act, they are sent a letter requesting their resignation from their federal position or to withdraw from a partisan election, said office spokesman Darshan A. Sheth. If the person decides not to comply with the letter, a complaint is filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board, he said.

By Christy Goodman  |  September 17, 2010; 3:13 PM ET
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In Ms. Hughes case, I don't think the complaints are frivolous. Although Hughes ran as an independent because of her federal employment status, she was publicly endorsed by the local Republican Party, who included her in their campaign strategy and leaflets and had a link from their site to her site where she raised funds. She was often identified in press interviews as a "proud member of the Commonwealth Republican Women's Club", which left little doubt in voters' minds about how she would vote. The question here is did her actions make her campaign cross over from being non-partisan to partisan. Merely calling a campaign non-partisan is not enough.

Posted by: wend08 | September 17, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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