A North Carolina newspaper is calling on President Obama to punish cabinet secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was found in violation of the Hatch Act earlier this month for giving a political speech while conducting official business in the Tar Heel state.
An editorial published Tuesday in The Gaston Gazette of Gastonia, North Carolina declares, “Either we should enforce the Hatch Act or take it off the books.”
“Although unlikely to happen, the secretary should be punished for her transgression,” the newspaper’s editorial said. “Her activities set a poor example for other federal employees.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Sept. 12 said the Health and Human Services Secretary violated the law in Charlotte, N.C. on Feb. 25 while delivering a speech to the Human Rights Campaign in her official capacity as cabinet secretary. In her speech, Sebelius called for Obama’s re-election, and the election of the Democratic candidate for governor in North Carolina.
The Hatch Act prohibits certain civil servants in the federal government from engaging in political activity on the job, including Sebelius.
Despite the finding, White House press secretary Jay Carney has suggested the president considers the matter resolved and will not punish her.
Carney said Sebelius’ remarks were “extemporaneous” and “the Health and Human services department has since classified the event to meet the correct standard, the US Treasury has been reimbursed and Sec. Sebelius has met with ethics experts to ensure that this never happens again.”
“The error was immediately acknowledged by the secretary, promptly corrected and no taxpayer dollars were misused,” he said.
Said Carney: “I think it’s safe to assume that action has been taken by the secretary and the department to remedy what was the result of an inadvertent error based on extemporaneous remarks.”
The cabinet secretary’s Hatch Act violation has gotten little play in the press. Nearly a week went by after the finding before a reporter asked about the issue in a White House briefing.