WASHINGTON — An administrator with the Department of Health and Human Services resigned after saying he unknowingly violated a federal law by holding a fund-raiser for a congressional candidate from Pennsylvania.
Michael Hash, acting administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, held a fund-raiser at his house on May 4 for Democratic congressional candidate Ronald Strouse, said Jane McFarland, spokeswoman for the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency of federal prosecutors.
After speaking with his department's ethics officer, McFarland said Friday, Hash realized he had violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that bans campaign activity by government workers. Hash then reported his own violation to the OSC and cooperated with its investigation.
In settlement talks, Hash agreed to resign, effective Friday, and the department agreed not to seek disciplinary action, according to a statement from the OSC. Penalties can range from a 30-day suspension to firing.
Melissa Skolfield, spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, said the secretary "has the highest respect for Mike and what he has accomplished at HCFA. It is a testament to his personal integrity that he voluntarily reported this."
"While I made an innocent mistake, it was one I should not have made," Hash said in a statement.
Hash told the special counsel that he never reviewed educational material he received about the Hatch Act when he became a federal employee, McFarland said.
"While OSC will prosecute violations of the Hatch Act, it prefers to help federal employees avoid such violations in the first place," Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan said in a statement.
Hash, appointed by the Clinton administration, already had plans to leave at the end of the year, his attorney, W. Neil Eggleston, said.
Strouse failed in his challenge to unseat Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Greenwood.