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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 14, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 15
Anti-Gay Bush official hired by Trump White House
Section One
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Anti-Gay Bush official hired by Trump White House

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A former Bush administration official involved in purging LGBT government employees has been hired by the Trump administration.

During George W. Bush's presidency, James Renne was involved in a major scandal, in which government employees were targeted for removal because of their suspected sexual orientation.

Renne, then an official in the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) - a federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers from retaliation - created the so-called 'Midwest Field Office' in Detroit, and abruptly reassigned career employees there, 500 miles away from their homes in Washington DC. Those who refused to move were fired.

According to a 2013 Inspector General's report, there was no legitimate reason for reassigning the employees. The only thing they had in common was that they were believed by their superiors to be LGBT.

The report found 'facts which reflect that Mr. Bloch and Mr. Renne may have been motivated in their actions by a negative personal attitude toward homosexuality and individuals whose orientation is homosexual.'

Shortly after he was hired as deputy counsel, language informing employees that antidiscrimination protections extended to sexual orientation disappeared from the agency's website.

'Mr. Renne was depicted as intently searching the OSC website with the assistance of a senior career official to identify passages which interpreted [the nondiscrimination law] as extending protection to employees on the basis of their sexual orientation,' the investigative report said. 'According to this account, Mr. Renne demanded that OSC's information technology manager remove these materials from the website immediately.'

Employees began to complain of being improperly fired and to file complaints.

Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Trefry, who was tasked with opening the Detroit office, told investigators that '[Renne's boss Scott Bloch] indicated to General Trefry that there was a sizeable group of homosexuals employed by OSC, which had developed during the years prior to his taking office, that he 'had a license' to get rid of homosexual employees, and that he intended to 'ship them out.'

Eventually Renne pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of destroying evidence to thwart FBI investigators.

Now Renne is back in a government job, holding a staff position in the Department of Agriculture.

In fact, Renne was one of the very first political appointees of the new administration, part of the 'beachhead teams,' whose role was to lay the groundwork for the new administration's policies.

Neither Renne nor the Department of Agriculture has responded to requests for comment.

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