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Fed investigation to determine if Scott violated law; Wearing of his uniform to Palin rally is at issue

By Staff | Oct 8, 2008

A federal investigation was launched Tuesday into Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott’s recent appearance at Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s campaign rally.

Scott, dressed in his sheriff’s uniform, gave a pro-Palin, pro-Republican speech as one of several speakers at the rally. Complains that the act could be a violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting the political activities of some public officials who receive federal funds, were received.

Anthony Guglielmi, director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, said the investigation was sparked by several phone calls and a formal complaint.

“We’ve launched a formal investigation,” Guglielmi said.

Public officials covered under the Hatch Act are barred from “using official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination,” according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel Web site.

Guglielmi said his office is trying to complete all possible Hatch Act violation investigations before the Nov. 4 general election, but that is going to be a tough task since it is receiving many complaints.

“I mean you pretty much name the race and we’re getting calls on it,” he said.

Although the Lee County Sheriff’s Office does receive federal grant money, Scott said he is not covered under the Hatch Act.

“As far as I’m aware the Hatch Act doesn’t actually apply to sheriffs,” he said.

Scott’s office also received complaints Tuesday about his reference to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein.

“Let’s leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened Nov. 4,” Scott said to the crowd of about 9,000 at the Germain Arena on Monday.

Opponents of Obama have often used his middle name to draw attention to his supposed Muslim roots. Although Internet rumors earlier this year claimed Obama was a Muslim, he is a practicing Christian. He was given his middle name by his Kenyan father and attended a Muslim school for five years when he was a child living in Indonesia.

Both the Obama campaign and John McCain’s campaign have renounced Scott’s statement, but Scott said he is sticking by his words.

“Of course I don’t have a regret or an apology,” he said. “I’m guilty of nothing more than using a man’s full legal name.”

If found in violation of the Hatch Act, Scott could face dismissal or his office could lose the equivalent of up to two years of his salary.

Scott said he also received some calls of support in addition to the complaints about use of the candidate’s middle name.

“We know at least eight or nine thousand people supported it (Monday),” Scott said.