WENATCHEE — Chelan County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Burnett said today that a federal investigation has cleared him of Hatch Act campaign violations that would prohibit him from running for sheriff.
The 42-year-old veteran deputy said his campaign is “on track and running full steam ahead.”
A formal complaint filed in June with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel questioned whether Burnett received federal funds as part of his salary for duties with the sheriff’s office. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from campaigning for office or supporting a political candidate while on duty as a federal employee.
“It’s a nice relief to have this behind us,” said the deputy. “We believe in this effort to win the sheriff’s seat, and now we can move forward.”
Since 2008, Burnett had participated in some programs partially funded by federal monies, he said, including a SWAT drug eradication program and some overtime hours in a DUI enforcement program funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But those duties are now over, Burnett said this morning. He resigned from the SWAT team earlier this month, he said, and has pulled back from any sheriff’s office programs fully or partially funded by federal monies.
Also this month, Burnett appealed the OSC’s findings in the original complaint. On Friday, he received a letter from the agency, he said, that stated investigators had determined he no longer works in federally funded programs, has no involvement with federal grants and does not supervise anyone who does.
“They determined that my position is funded solely through state and local tax dollars,” he said, “and concluded that I am not covered by the Hatch Act.”
Meagan Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Counsel, declined to verify if Burnett had been cleared in the complaint or if a letter had been sent to him last week. “We have no comment on our investigations,” she said. “We never comment on these matters.”
Consequently, said Burnett, the name of the person who filed the complaint remains a mystery. The deputy said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month to learn the complaintant’s identity, but the request was denied. He said today that he’ll re-file the request in the next few days.
The original complaint with the Office of Special Counsel also included sheriff’s candidate Mike Hartnett, a former patrol sergeant for the county. That investigation was dropped because Hartnett had resigned from the sheriff’s department in June.
Mike Irwin: 665-1179