An official appointed to his post by former President Donald Trump is suing the Biden administration over a termination threat he alleges is illegal.
Trump appointed Roger Severino, a former Heath and Human Services official, to the Administrative Conference of the United States in August 2020 and reappointed him last month.
Severino’s term was supposed to last for three years. But he alleges he received an email this week from Gautam Raghavan, the deputy director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, asking him to resign. If not, Raghavan warned that he would be terminated.
“President Biden has no authority to terminate Mr. Severino’s appointment to the Council under 5 U.S.C. § 595(b) or Article II of the Constitution. Mr. Severino seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent this unlawful removal,” states the Feb. 3 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Biden and Raghavan.
Severino said he wrote back to Raghavan asking for the grounds for the resignation request. He did not receive a response from Raghavan or anybody else in the administration.
Similar resignation requests have been sent to other council members, according to the suit.
In a separate statement, Severino said he has been an active and valued member of the council and there is no reason for him to be terminated.
“Notably, the Trump administration did not terminate any Obama-era ACUS appointees before their terms expired, and I believe this is the first time in ACUS history that a president has attempted such a move,” he said. “President Biden’s attempt to remove me contrary to law exposes his lofty promises of healing and uniting all Americans as nothing more than cynical manipulation.”
Severino worked for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through January. He now directs the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s HHS Accountability Project.
The ACUS Council is listed as of Feb. 4 as only having six of the 10 positions filled. Severino is one of the members who are not listed on the website.
The council is composed of a mix of government officials and private citizens. They are appointed by the president.
The council calls plenary sessions, proposes bylaws and regulations for adoption by the ACUS assembly, reviews budget proposals, approves the appointment of public members, and conducts research studies, according to its website.
ACUS is described as an independent federal agency charged with convening expert representatives from the public and private sectors to recommend improvements to administrative process and procedure.