May 17, 2013
OGE Position Opening: Supervisory Attorney Advisor (Program Counsel)
The Office of Government Ethics is seeking a motivated and highly-qualified candidate for an exciting full-time permanent position in the Program Counsel Division located in Washington D.C.
The Program Counsel Division (PCD) manages significant external communications between OGE and its many customers and stakeholders. The division combines key functions that cut across OGE mission areas in order to bring targeted resources to these functions.
Job posting may be found at USAJobs:
May 15, 2013
OGE Issues Summary of the Provisions of the 2013 Appropriations Act that Affect the Executive Branch Ethics Program
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a Legal Advisory summarizing the provisions of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, that affect the Executive Branch ethics program, including new notification and reporting requirements for agencies that hold a conference during fiscal year 2013.
The Legal Advisory also reminds agencies that the three statutory pay-level thresholds for certain purposes under either the Ethics in Government Act or 18 U.S.C. § 207(c) will remain at 2011 levels as a result of the Act’s extension of the civilian pay freeze for federal employees through December 31, 2013. For more information, please see Legal Advisory LA-13-07 dated May 15, 2013, http://www.oge.gov/OGE-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/
Sentencing postponed for Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel
The Washington Post reports: The legal case for Scott J. Bloch, the former head of the federal agency that protects government whistleblowers, continued Monday when a federal judge balked at proceeding with sentencing because of what he called an “improperly sanitized version of events.”
Bloch, the Bush-era head of the Office of Special Counsel, pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of destroying government property when he ordered the deletion of office computer files by private technicians.
Bloch admitted in 2010 that he had not given House investigators complete information about an incident in which he hired a company called Geeks on Call to scrub computers at the Office of Special Counsel. At the time, Bloch had been accused of retaliating against his staff and closing whistleblower cases without proper investigation. He has maintained that he was trying to deal with a computer virus.
Bloch was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail, but a federal judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because neither side in the case had been aware that the offense required a sentence of jail time.
Congress to Investigate Whether IRS Employees Mishandled Sensitive Data
House and Senate lawmakers plan to investigate whether tax agency officials exploited stored sensitive information about conservative political organizations that filed for tax-exempt status, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
The IRS apologized May 10 for applying extra scrutiny to groups whose names included words such as "tea party" and "patriot" when vetting the organizations for compliance with tax laws. It’s not clear if IRS employees with computer privileges mishandled sensitive information related to the targeted organizations, such as disclosing donor lists to unauthorized individuals. A draft inspector general timeline outlining the evolution of the policy on reviewing tax-exempt applications obtained by Nextgov states IRS officials decided certain sensitive data could be expunged. “The requested donor information could be destroyed . . . It does not need to be kept in the administrative file,” the government documents state.So far, there have been no indications agency personnel violated data protection rules for tax documents. Nonetheless, abuse of the conservative groups’ information is a worry, according to staff for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. The aides said lawmakers plan to address the issue at a committee hearing Friday on the IRS’s political profiling of applicants for tax-exempt status.
May 14, 2013
Senior Level Ethics Official Opening at the Indian Health Service
The Indian Health Service (IHS) has announced a vacancy for an experienced senior level ethics official. The IHS, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Please view the announcement by clicking this link - https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/343281600
May 10, 2013
Bill Proposes to Lift Ban on Federal Conferences in Resort Towns
A bipartisan group of House members from Nevada want to eliminate bans on federal agencies holding conferences in casinos or resort locations. The bill—proposed by Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck, and Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford—says such prohibitions are counterproductive and unfairly target areas with high numbers of resort and vacation locations.
The lawmakers say agencies are moving to more expensive venues because they want to “avoid any stigma associated with the ‘resort or ‘casino’ name,” even when these sites may actually provide federal agencies and taxpayers a better deal. “These prohibitions emphasize optics over real fiscal restraint,” Amodei said in a statement.
The proposed legislation comes a little more than a year after revelations the General Services Administration dropped $820,000 on a 2010 training conference in Las Vegas. Several agency executives were dismissed or resigned from their positions in the aftermath of the scandal, including former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, and agencies across government tightened their travel and conference spending.
Some agencies, including those within the Agriculture, Justice and Homeland Security departments, have implemented formal bans prohibiting travel to resort locations.
May 09, 2013
Ethics Specialists Openings at FDA
Openings for Ethics Specialists at FDA The Ethics Office (Ethics and Integrity Staff) at the Food and Drug Administration:
(FDA) has multiple Ethics Specialist vacancies it is attempting to fill immediately. The job announcement may be found on the USAJOBS web site at: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/342821100
Below are the general particulars regarding the openings. For additional information and how to apply visit the above web link.
Job Title: Ethics Specialist, GS-0301-9/11/12/13 Department: Department Of Health And Human Services Agency: Food and Drug Administration Job Announcement Number: HHS-FDA-MP-13-885719 SALARY RANGE: $51,630.00 to $115,742 / Per Year OPEN PERIOD: Thursday, May 9, 2013 to Wednesday, May 15, 2013 SERIES & GRADE: GS-0301-09/13 POSITION INFORMATION: Full Time - Permanent PROMOTION POTENTIAL: 13 DUTY LOCATIONS: Office of the Commissioner, Office of Operations, Ethics and Integrity Staff, Silver Spring, MD.
Greenberg Traurig law firm at the center of ‘political intelligence’ case
A lobbyist hears from “very credible sources” that the White House is going to reverse a major health-care proposal. He tells a client in an e-mail, and that person then tells his own clients in a research note.
It sounds like the game of telephone that lobbyists, government officials and even reporters are drawn into every day in Washington. Except in this case, the chain of information may have triggered a spike in trades on Wall Street — and has now led to a government investigation into possible insider trading.
How the lobbyist, who works at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, stepped into this morass offers a window into what has become a routine and profitable practice at law firms and lobbying shops: In addition to their usual work, lobbyists share with financial firms the latest political tidbits they are gathering from sources, sending an e-mail here and there with the latest “political intelligence.” The financial firms value the information because it can inform their investments.
Recent attention has focused on a new breed of companies that offer political intelligence exclusively for investor clients, but some of the country’s most prominent law firms have gotten into the business, too.
May 08, 2013
Interesting DC Bar Opinion on Conflicts and Furlough-Related Employment Complaints
Can a government lawyer represent an agency employer in defending the agency from furlough-related complaints brought by other agency employees when the lawyer was also furloughed and is pursuing her own complaint in which the allegations are substantially similar to those in the complaint she is defending?
Under the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer has a conflict of interest in a matter when “[t]he lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected by the lawyer’s responsibilities to or interests in a third party or the lawyer’s own financial, business, property, or personal interests.” Rule 1.7(b)(4). Such a conflict plainly exists in this situation.
However, so-called individual interest conflicts like this one can be waived under Rule 1.7(c) if:
1.Each potentially affected client provides informed consent to such representation after full disclosure of the existence and nature of the possible conflict and the possible adverse consequences of such representation; and
2.The lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client.
The only affected client here is the agency. The agency’s informed consent to the conflicted lawyer’s representation notwithstanding her individual interest conflict would satisfy the requirements of the first paragraph. But client consent alone is not enough. Under the second paragraph, the lawyer must also reasonably believe that she can provide competent and diligent representation to the agency in the matter despite her personal interest, and her belief must be objectively reasonable under the circumstances. That may be a difficult standard to meet when the lawyer is pursuing her own challenge to the furlough while being asked to defend the agency against substantially similar challenges by other affected agency employees.
The full opinion may be found here.
May 04, 2013
D.C. Council member Orange disciplined by ethics board
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange was admonished by the city’s ethics board Thursday after it concluded that he had improperly interfered with health inspectors who were trying to close a rat-infested business.
Orange, who was ordered to attend ethics training, is the first council member to be admonished by the relatively new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.