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February 29, 2012

OGE's side-by-side comparision of the STOCK Act

It is worthy to take a look at the Office of Government Ethics side-by-side comparison of the various versions of the STOCK Act, which could create a public, sort and searchable, database of financial disclosure information in an effort to stymie insider trading concerns.  See Download S2038 side-by-side[1]

Posted by Account Deleted in Electronic Filing, Issues: Financial Disclosure, News, OGE | Permalink

February 28, 2012

March 2012 Presentation Materials: Ethics in Brief (in PDF)

For those who may have encountered problems downloading the word versions of the USDA one-pagers, please see below, PDF versions:

Posted by Account Deleted in IEC Meetings | Permalink

February 27, 2012

Reminder: Meeting on Thursday

Stuart Bender, the Designated Agency Ethics Official at the Department of Agriculture, will be the guest speaker at the next IEC meeting on Thursday, March 1, on the topic of sharpening ethics communications. We had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bender at the most recent OGE ethics conference, and this experience has whetted our appetite to learn more. A previous post contains logistical details about the meeting.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in IEC Meetings | Permalink

Outside Employment Poem

Rosa Koppel was kind enough to share an issue of the Federal Labor Relations Authority internal newsletter containing a poem about the restrictions on outside employment. Available in your choice of formats:

Download Ethics Corner 1-6-12 (MS Word)

Download Ethics Corner 1-6-12 (PDF)

We love this type of material. Not quite Byron, but there's nothing wrong with making people smile--and maybe learn something. Please share other examples. 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Training Aids | Permalink

February 26, 2012

March 2012 Presentation Materials: Ethics in Brief

Here are the handouts for this week's IEC presentation:

Please remember to print an bring copies with you.

Posted by Account Deleted in IEC Meetings | Permalink

February 25, 2012

IG Documents Whistleblower Retaliation Fears at DHS

POGO has a summary of a Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) report documenting that a high percentage of Federal Air Marshals are reluctant to report on problems in that organization due to fear of retaliation.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Whistleblowers | Permalink

February 24, 2012

Hatch Act Training Materials

Looking for fodder for your election year Hatch Act training? The Hatch Act section of the Office of Special Counsel website is a good place to start. The archives of our Hatch Act category provide examples and related material. 

We welcome your suggestions as to other sources.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Hatch Act, Training Aids | Permalink

February 23, 2012

Help Available Update

Our Help Available feature has been updated to include information about senior ethics experts John Szabo and Arnold Haiman moving to Ethos LLC.

Please forward similar announcements to our attention. Some people have reported difficulty with the comments feature on the Help Available page. If it's not working for you, forward information by e-mail.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Help Available | Permalink

February 22, 2012

NPR Interview with OSC Head Lerner

NPR has a transcript of its January interview with Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counselt.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Hatch Act, OSC, Whistleblowers | Permalink

February 21, 2012

OSC Probes FDA E-mail Monitoring

Federal Times reports:

The Office of Special is investigating whether the Food and Drug Administration broke personnel rules by monitoring the personal emails of past and current employees who were whistle-blowers.

FDA has acknowledged it monitored emails between employees and congressional investigators and OSC "after the employees reported coercion to approve unsafe or harmful medical devices," OSC said in a statement Wednesday.

OSC said it received "new and troubling" allegations from current and former FDA employees that their managers retaliated against them and attempted to launch a criminal investigation.

OSC first opened an investigation into FDA's monitoring of employee emails several months ago, but two weeks ago it broadened that probe to examine whether the monitoring constituted improper retaliation against whistle-blowers, OSC spokeswoman Ann O'Hanlon said in an interview. "If we find that an agency committed a prohibited personnel practice we work to resolve that."

Edited Feb. 22 to correct typo.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in OSC, Whistleblowers | Permalink

February 20, 2012

IEC Journal Celebrates Eighth Birthday

This month the IEC Journal celebrates its eighth anniversary. (Our first post is available for the historically-minded). We are pleased to be able to provide this service for the ethics community and, with continuing support from our reporters and community members who provide information, we look forward to continued support for ethics officials government-wide.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in About | Permalink

February 17, 2012

March 1st Meeting

Have you ever been asked to summarize a 14 page criminal ethics statute on one 3 x 5 card? How about when senior management asks for a succinct but accurate description of what ethics law applies to a particular matter, and you are told it should not exceed one page. Have you done this? Well, a seasoned veteran of the ethics community will be sharing how to present ethics epistles at our March 1, IEC meeting, Mr. Stuart Bender, the Designated Agency Ethics Official at the Department of Agriculture. This presentation, and his handouts, should directly benefit any of us in our practice. Participants will learn tools and techniques that they can immediately put to use.

As usual, we will meet at the United States Access Board, at 1331 F Street, N.W. (on the north side of F Street, between 13th and 14th Streets, near the Metro Center station) from 12:15-1:30. As always, individuals who are on the IEC roster need not pre-register. Ethics officials who are not on our roster but who wish to attend can pre-register by contacting Patrick.Carney@fcc.gov not later than Monday, February 27th. Those who are neither on the IEC roster nor pre-registered can still be admitted by showing a Government ID upon arrival at the building.

Posted by PJC in IEC Meetings | Permalink

February 15, 2012

Lobbyists sue Federal Govt over ban on Advisory Committees

Lobbyists who were serving or sought to serve, but were banned from federal advisory committees by the Obama administration, are suing the government to reverse the ban on their service on grounds that it violates the First Amendment. All plaintiffs were up or served on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which are jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

Read the full The Hill article at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/210439-lobbyists-sue-obama-after-being-booted-from-boards 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Special Gov. Employees, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Lobbyists sue Federal Govt over ban on Advisory Committees

Lobbyists who were serving or sought to serve, but were banned from federal advisory committees by the Obama administration, are suing the government to reverse the ban on their service on grounds that it violates the First Amendment. All plaintiffs were up or served on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which are jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

Read the full The Hill article at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/210439-lobbyists-sue-obama-after-being-booted-from-boards 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Special Gov. Employees, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 13, 2012

Ethics Related News

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Misuse of Position, News | Permalink

Air Force suspends Booz Allen San Antonio office

Federal Times reported that the Air Force has indefinitely suspended and proposed debarment for Booz Allen Hamilton's San Antonio office from future federal procurements for disclosure of protected proprietary information.  Read the full article at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120209/IT04/202090305/

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Contractors in the Workplace, Procurement | Permalink

February 12, 2012

Who's to Blame for Ethics Debacles, Private Sector Fraud or Government Lapses?

A POGO post cites four examples of dubious ethics conduct that helped private industry (Interior MMS, FDA advisory committee re Yaz & Yasmin contraceptives, Boeing helicopters and SEC Bear Stearns controversy), and finds the common thread: In the end, it's all on the government.

In these examples, the private sector is benefitting, perhaps inappropriately. But can you blame them? While it’s no excuse for wrongdoing, let’s be honest: The business of business is to make money, but it’s the government’s business to protect the public’s interests.

In the four cases mentioned, the government’s failure to act contributes to a culture of impunity. ...

In these cases, industry might be doing something that is questionable and/or fleeces the taxpayer, but it’s the government’s failure to maintain its own integrity and robustly protect its own interests that enabled the wrongdoing. Holding those people accountable whose job it is to protect the public good is the only way to change this culture of impunity.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

February 10, 2012

Representative Faces Ethics Probe for Alleged Insider Trading

The Post reports that Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, will be investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for alleged violations of insider trading laws. The case is the first of its kind involving a member of Congress.

Posted by IEC Team 3 | Permalink

Industry Liaisons Raise Questions at FDA

POGO questions why "voting members of the FDA panel, including its chairperson, turned out to have prior relationships with Bayer or a company that markets a generic equivalent of Yaz and Yasmin. In one case, the ties involved thousands of dollars in fees, while some of the other panel members had conducted research funded by Bayer or the generic manufacturer. The four all voted in favor of the Bayer pills and related contraceptives, tipping the balance.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Conflicts of Interest | Permalink

February 09, 2012

Four Year Prison Term for Accepting Bribe

Thanks to the esteemed Steve Epstein for forwarding a tip to a press release concerning a government employee sentenced to four years in prison for what was referred to as a "relatively small" bribe of $189,000.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Misuse of Position | Permalink

February 08, 2012

Accessing IEC Journal Updates

Due to new people entering the ethics community all the time, some questions repeat themselves. One perennial is: How can I get on your mailing list?

We don't operate a conventional e-mail mailing list, but we make updates available though a variety of other methods, including Twitter and an RSS feed that can be accessed in various ways, including web post-to-email conversion services These methods are summarized in a September post. If you have trouble using those methods, or find a better way, please let us know.

More generally, note that we archive administrative information about this site under our About category, available in a sidebar. That is the place to go if you want to review what we have posted previously about site access and other administrative topics.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in About | Permalink

February 07, 2012

The Right Way to Announce a DAEO Appointment

Ideally, an agency head's announcement of a DAEO should build them up, giving them credibility with the workforce that makes it easier for them to do their job. Here's a slightly redacted version of a recent announcement from the USAID Administrator that we believe demonstrates a good approach:

I am pleased to announce my designation of Jim Peters, the Assistant General Counsel for Ethics and Administration (GC/EA), as USAID’s Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO), pursuant to the requirements of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.  Jim has my complete confidence to carry out the functions of the Agency’s ethics program, including the collection and review of employee financial disclosure forms, managing the annual ethics training, and providing day-to-day guidance and counseling.  Jim has been performing many of these functions throughout his 25-year career in the U.S. Government, and within his 15-year tenure with the Agency.  He has been USAID’s Alternate DAEO for half of that time.
 
As we carry out our daily functions and work to implement USAID Forward, it is important that we keep sight of the ethical obligations that we owe to the American public and the ultimate beneficiaries of our efforts.  This means not only complete compliance with the ethics rules, but also a focus on doing the right thing.  Jim is a regular resource to my staff and me, and I encourage you to contact him or a member of his staff with any questions you may have.  ...
 
I have also named Bruce McPherson, Attorney-Advisor in GC/EA, as the Alternate DAEO.  Bruce has a background in banking and in legal practice at a prominent DC law firm, and in his nearly two years at USAID has built upon this to become an excellent resource as well.  For staff posted overseas, you may contact your Regional Legal Advisor (RLA), who also serves as a Deputy Ethics Officer.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

OSC finds retailiation of whistleblowers in Air Force Mortuary case

See OSC's press release at: http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2012/pr12_01ppp.pdf.

Related news articles include:

Posted by Account Deleted in OSC, Whistleblowers | Permalink

February 06, 2012

Illustration of Risks For IGs Investigating Senior Officials?

Thanks to the IEC member who altered us to a Bloomberg article on questions about the propriety of some actions by the SEC Inspector General.

To add balance to our coverage, we offer the following comments by an experienced Inspector General lawyer, expressing his own opinion, and not necessarily that of the IEC:

We have not analyzed the article carefully and have no inside knowledge of the allegations. With this understood, we believe this may be the key sentence that puts the allegations in context:

Kotz, who has served as inspector general for four years, has been the subject of complaints by current and former officials who have said some of his probes are overly aggressive and his reports lack evidence of wrongdoing.

IGs who do their job can expect to make enemies. Some of them will be clever and powerful enemies with a proclivity for hitting back, by means fair or unfair.

The attached article from The Journal of Public Integrity by esteemed former Department of Defense Deputy Inspector General Derek Vander Schaff does a good job of describing some of the risks IGs run when they investigate senior agency officials:

Download Vander Schaff Article: Addressing Allegations Against Senior Officials

Edited April 22, 2012 to make attribution more explicit.

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Inspectors General | Permalink

Shelby's STOCK Act

GovExec article discusses the implications of Congressman Shelby's amendments to the STOCK Act, introduced to address concerns about Congressmen not being covered by insider trading laws.  Under the amendment the impact has been expanded to try to cover many Executive Branch personnel.  As currently contemplated, the law could require:

  • Electronic availability of Public Financial Disclosure report
  • Posting of all stock trades of certain personnel, where the transaction exceeds $1,000, for all or some financial disclosure filers

See full article at http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/02/momentum-builds-require-feds-disclose-stock-trades/41092/.

For details about the various STOCK Act versions, see http://insidertrading.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004520.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Misuse of Position, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 05, 2012

Possible Conflict for Medicare/Medicaid Nominee?

Thanks to Wayne Johnson for alerting us to a Washington Times story summarized as follows:

President Obama’s nominee,  Marilyn Tavenner,  to run the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid agency can count on receiving more than $160,000 a year in retirement pay for the rest of her life from the country’s largest private hospital chain, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).  Ms. Tavenner is a former executive of HCA.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Revolving Door | Permalink

February 04, 2012

POGO on Senior Military Officers Joining Contractors

Here's an excerpt from a recent Project on Government Oversight posting:

The revolving door that carried former Department of Defense honcho William Lynn III to a well-paying job with an Italian defense contractor keeps on spinning – now Gen. James Cartwright, who retired as the nation’s second-highest ranking military officer in August, is following Lynn into the private sector.

Cartwright is joining the Board of Directors at Raytheon, a major U.S. defense contractor. Earlier in the week, DRS Technologies named Lynn as its chief executive officer. (Coincidently, before Lynn was tapped as deputy defense secretary, he was a top lobbyist for Raytheon.)

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Revolving Door | Permalink

February 03, 2012

Two Items: Downloading Materials and Delays

Download Issues

At least a few people had difficulties downloading handouts before yesterday's meeting. Most often, problems like this are caused by agency security measures. Try contacting your agency's IT security staff. They will usually be your best bet.

In unusual situations, we will be glad to talk with your tech staff about how we operate at our end, but since our operation is mostly "plain vanilla" with no exotic technologies, this should not usually be necessary.

Delays

Partly due to health issues, we are somewhat behind on posting items suggested by IEC members. Please excuse the delays as we try to catch up.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in About | Permalink

Job Opening: SAIC, Tysons

Details concerning an ethics job in McLean:

 

  http://jobs.saic.com/job/Mclean-Group-Director-of-Ethics-Job-VA-22101/1692801/

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Help Wanted | Permalink

Interesting article on Congress' Insider Trading Bill

If you missed it, the Senate overwhelmingly (96-3) passed the bill that would impose insider training restrictions on lawmakers this week.  The House is expected to take it up next week.  Interestingly, attached conflicting amendments would further impose this on certain Executive Branch employees.  See Associated Press article at http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/03/house-ready-to-consider-insider-trading-ban/.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

FOUND: Women's black jacket

A woman’s black jacket, size small (Anne Klein) was left in suite where the IEC presentation was given.  It is hanging on the coat rack for now.  The owner should call Rose Marie to arrange pick up at (202) 272.0006.

 

Posted by Account Deleted in IEC Meetings | Permalink

February 02, 2012

Department Of Housing And Urban Development attorney vancancy (GS 13/14)

HUD's Office of General Counsel has an Attorney-Advisor (GS-0905-13/14) vancancy in the Office of Ethics and Personnel Law, Personnel Law Division.  See the full announcement at: http://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/307761900.  Job Announcement Number:F12-EX-596747-1JA.  The position is open to all qualified candidates.  The closing date is February 16, 2012. 

Posted by Account Deleted in Help Wanted | Permalink

February 2012 Presentation Materials: Ethics & Govt Lawyers

Here is the handout for today's IEC presentation, ETHICS & THE GOVERNMENT LAWYER.  Download Ethics & Govt Lawyer handout (02-02-2012)

Please try to bring a copy with you to today's presentation.

Posted by Account Deleted in IEC Meetings, Legal Ethics | Permalink

Article on Ethical Financial Choices for Presidential Candidates

CNN Money posted an article about how various U.S. Presidents have handled their financial assets in accordance with ethics regulations.

Posted by IEC Team 3 | Permalink

February 01, 2012

Training Tip 20: Computer Slide Shows: Boon or Bane?

“Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience.”

Edward Tufte, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

Computer generated slide shows like Microsoft PowerPoint have gotten a bad rap in some circles. For example:

  • The quotation above from respected Yale professor Edward Tufte is one of the milder criticisms in his pamphlet-sized anti-slideshow rant.
  • Peter Norvig’s Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation is an hilarious demonstration of how slideware would have destroyed Lincoln’s famous speech. Norvig posits the question an imaginary listener would ask: "Doesn't he realize this presentation is a waste of time? Why doesn't he just tell us what matters and get it over with?"
  • Former OGE Director Bob Cusick began a speech at one OGE conference with the comment “I don’t have a slide show.” The audience cheered.
  • Some U.S. Army Generals have banned the use of PowerPoint from military briefings.
  • A Swiss political party has even undertaken to have slide shows banned altogether.

Are the criticisms justified? To some extent, yes. Too many users of slide shows don’t understand what they are doing or don’t put in enough effort, or both. A high percentage of slide shows are painful for audiences.

However, the story is not that simple. Contrary to the views of the anti-slideshow camp, slide shows don’t cause people to be bad presenters. Slide shows are merely a tool used by many speakers, both good and bad.

An excellent speaker without a slide show will be better than a poor speaker without a slide show. However, a good slide show will probably make an excellent speaker even better. And it can sometimes make an average to poor speaker noticeably more effective.

Slide shows make sense for trainers who understand how to use them and are willing to invest the time to produce a decent product. Understanding how to create and use slide shows is a powerful tool in the trainer’s arsenal. We’ll be devoting our next Training Tips columns to exploring the right way to use PowerPoint and similar software, and we hope you enjoy the ride. 

 

Provide your suggestions and examples in the Comments section below. Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Technology for Trainers, Training Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Ounce of Prevention, Hatch Act-Style

Thanks to Wayne Johnson for alerting us to the Office of Special Counsel's expansive policy on Hatch Act training:


Now that the 2012 President election season is under way, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is offering to provide agencies with speakers regarding the Hatch Act. To that end, OSC Hatch Act Unit attorneys will give training attendees an informative presentation on the statute and its political activity restrictions as well as provide many examples of permitted and prohibited activities and field any questions that attendees might have.

To request someone from the Hatch Act Unit to speak at an agency training session or event, you should complete the speaker request form found at http://www.osc.gov/outreachRequestOSCspeaker.htm. Once completed, fax the form to OSC Outreach at (202) 653-5161.

For additional information about the training OSC provides, you may contact Shirine Moazed, Washington Field Office Chief, at (202) 254-3600 or click on the following link http://www.osc.gov/outreach.htm which will direct you to the section of OSC’s website that discusses the outreach / training program.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Hatch Act, Procurement | Permalink