Can Anne Donohue be Trusted?
Anne Donohue, the newly elected at-large School Board member and recently departed Department of Justice (DoJ) attorney, was found by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to have violated the Hatch Act in her campaign for office. While Mrs. Donohue did resign from the DoJ after being confronted with the violation, this raises a larger question of her ethics.
The Hatch Act mandates limitations on executive branch federal employee engagement in partisan political activities. Executive branch employees may run for non-partisan office, but may not accept endorsement or contributions from partisan political organizations (such as the Loudoun Democratic Committee in the case of Donohue). As a DoJ attorney, Anne Donohue had to have been aware of the Hatch Act restrictions. By her own admission she said she had expected this to come up, indicating she knew her activity was illegal.
Donohue was not only endorsed by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee (LCDC), she also received campaign marketing materials from them (an in-kind contribution). While Mrs. Donohue has stated that she did not seek LCDC endorsement, she has donated regularly to the LCDC and participated in campaigns solely with Democrat activists and candidates.
When the OSC presented their findings to Ms. Donohue, that her actions did indeed violate the Hatch Act, she was given the choice to drop from the race or resign from her position at DoJ. Surprisingly, Mrs. Donohue chose to resign from her $176,000 federal position and stay in the race for a school board job which pays $27,000.
The OSC elected not to pursue further charges in light of Donohue’s resignation; however, Loudoun parents remain concerned about the ethics of a school board member who knowingly violated the law to campaign for her position.
The Loudoun County School Board has been at the center of many scandals over the past four years, and now has a chance for a fresh start with a new board. The question Loudouners must ask themselves is whether Anne Donohue can represent the level of integrity required to rebuild trust in a community that has lost all confidence in LCPS to act in the best interests of children and families.