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Senior FAA officials accused of telling workers 'job security' at risk if GOP wins

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 (Reuters)

Two federal agency supervisors allegedly warned employees earlier this year that a Republican takeover in Washington could threaten their jobs -- comments that some workers apparently took as guidance on "how to vote" and that one group claims may have violated federal law. 

Nonprofit watchdog Cause of Action wrote a letter Wednesday asking the Department of Transportation's inspector general to launch a probe into the incident, involving senior officials with the Federal Aviation Administration. The incident occurred in May during a meeting at the FAA's Seattle office, according to the letter. 

Emails obtained by FoxNews.com show one FAA employee recalling what John Hickey, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, said at the meeting. 

"I would not be able to quote Mr. Hickey (sic) exact words but what I took out of it was, if the conservative (Republicans) gain control of congress then the FAA could be looking (at) as much as a 15% cut in budget and we (may) be looking at furloughs. If the liberal Democrats take control of congress then we would be looking at a flat budget," the email said. "In short if the Republicans win office our jobs may be (affected) ... if the Democrats win office then our jobs would not be (affected)." 

The recipient of that email then relayed the account, and others, to apparent higher-ups at the FAA. He said, "there seems to be some energy within the office as a reaction to Mr. Hickey's, inappropriate at best, comments and more than a few employees took umbrage that a person in such an elevated position in the agency would make those remarks. 

"My understanding is that more than one employee's perception was that Mr. Hickey was essentially telling them how to vote if they wanted to keep their job," he wrote. 

Cause of Action claims the Office of Special Counsel is already investigating, adding that Raymond Towles, deputy director of flight standards field operations, is also being looked at over similar comments at the May meeting. 

The Cause of Action letter requesting an IG investigation expressed concern that the comments may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from partisan political activity. 

An FAA spokesman said in a statement Wednesday that the agency would cooperate with any review. 

"The FAA takes Hatch Act violation allegations very seriously and will cooperate fully with any review of the allegations," the spokesman said. 

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, called the alleged incident an "egregious abuse of power for political gain." 

"These career employees were led to believe their jobs were at risk if their political support did not line up with the agenda of the administration," he said. 

A representative with the FAA has not yet responded to a request for comment on the incident.