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May 25, 2012

June 7th Meeting

Our June program is entitled: "Challenging Ethics Issues in an Election Year," and is presented by Arnold Haiman, former Designated Agency Ethics Official at the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Mr. Haiman has presented on this topic previously at the Office of Government Ethics Conference.  Among the subjects that he will address will be post employment issues and counseling new political appointees.  Mr. Haiman is a dynamic speaker, who can draw on many years of Government ethics experience to provide great insight on this topic.

We will meet at the U.S. Access Board, at 1331 F Street, N.W., from 12:15 - 1:30.  Individuals who are on the IEC roster need not pre-register.  Ethics officials who are not on the roster can pre-register by contacting Danielle Barrett at danielle.barrett@dm.usda.gov not later than Monday, June 4th.  Individuals who are not on the roster or pre-registered can stll be admitted by showing a Government ID upon arrival.

Posted by PJC | Permalink

May 22, 2012

Opening for Deputy Associate General Counsel for Ethics at DHS: Closes June 6, 2012

The Office of the General Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking an experienced attorney for a supervisory position as the Deputy Associate General Counsel for Ethics.  The Division is responsible for providing ethics advice and training to Department headquarters employees and for implementing the financial disclosure reporting program pursuant to U.S. Office of Government Ethics regulations.  The Ethics Division develops ethics policy for the Department and provides ethics guidance to a broad range of Departmental activities, programs, and policies as well as participates on various DHS panels, committees, task forces, and working groups to ensure ethics legal and policy issues are considered in Departmental planning.  The announcement will remain open until Wednesday,June 6, 2012.

Posted by IEC Team 3 | Permalink

May 16, 2012

White House Releases President and Vice President Financial Disclosure Reports

On May 15, the White House posted the Public Financial Disclosure Reports for both the President and Vice-President on the landing page of its web site. 

Posted by IEC Team 3 | Permalink

May 06, 2012

Farewell, Thanks, and New Beginnings

Working with Steve Epstein eight years ago, I began IEC Journal with the thought that after three or four months of operation, it would be sufficiently well established so that I could pass the ball to other volunteers. Not a bad plan, but something unexpected happened:

IEC Journal turned out to be so rewarding, both personally and professionally, that I wound up staying much longer than intended.

Since our first substantive post on February 1, 2004, the Journal has been a significant resource for the IEC and the broader ethics community. Useful as the IEC's monthly meetings are, the Journal has had a significantly broader reach. As demonstrated on the statistical summary screen capture (TIFF format) as of this morning, IEC Journal has published 2,246 posts ("articles"). There have been 455,981 page views (not "hits"; the number of "hits" could easily be ten times that number or more), and an average of 154 page views per day. The pattern of page views on the 120 day summary chart is not surprising, but is instructive: Usage drops to almost nothing on weekends and spikes when important stories are published. Conclusion: The ethics community has embraced the Journal as a key resource.

However, no matter how successful or rewarding this project has been, eight years is enough for one person to contribute. I have decided to shift my attention to other projects, including magazine articles, maybe another book, and a couple of exciting new web projects (more about them below). To avoid a lapse in service, I will allow the IEC free use of this site until at least June 15, and will assist the IEC leadership in transitioning the Journal to the web server of their choice.


This project would never have gotten off the ground without the vision of Steve Epstein, former IEC Chair. While many, perhaps most government bureaucrats let fear of rocking the boat make them shy away from innovation, Steve embraced it. He saw the enormous potential of a website to fulfill the IEC's mission and steadfastly supported it.

Senior officials at the Office of Government Ethics and the White House Counsel's Office also deserve thanks. Bureaucracies being what they are, many in those positions would have succumbed to the thought: "We don't control it, so let's kill it." To their credit, that never happened. Though the White House Counsel's office did, justifiably, request that I correct one error of judgment by a junior Journal contributor, in over eight years of operation, I never received the slightest hint of pressure from anyone in either of those organizations to shut the project down.

Department of Justice lawyer Bert DiBella did not contribute a giant number of posts, but I believe his high quality articles about the Merit Systems Protection Board were a significant factor in helping the Journal gain early credibility with its target audience. While most contributor posts are under pen names, I began the Training Tips column in 2011 under my own name, in hopes of inspiring other subject matter experts like Bert to begin columns under their own names. This has not happened yet, but hope springs eternal.

Pat Carney has been a reliable and valuable Journal contributor from the beginning. Amanda Blue has displayed a high level of good judgment and writing ability. John Szabo contributed worthy posts before his retirement. Jeff Green deserves credit for his saintly patience with those who do not sufficiently understand or respect that the role of IEC Chair is a volunteer duty. There have been other contributors, but those are the ones that first come to mind.

Getting Personal

While teaching a large number of CLE classes over the past 20 years, I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. While audience feedback is usually good, it seems like I get at least as much benefit from teaching the classes as any of the students in taking them. The time I spend preparing deepens my understanding. The questions stimulate my thinking in valuable new directions.

My experience with IEC Journal has been similar. Even though most of my contributions have been under a pen name, I've been gratified by the recognition received, including praise from senior ethics officials prestigious agencies. 

However, I admit I feel a little guilty every time I receive such praise. My subjective sense is that whatever benefits I've given to others have been dwarfed by the personal and professional benefits I've gotten from the project. Therefore, I proffer my sincere thanks to the ethics community for one of the best gifts I've ever received: The opportunity to serve.

New Beginnings

I'll be rechanneling the effort I used to spend on IEC Journal into other volunteer opportunities, including:

Improving Quality of Ethics Training: Government employees deserve a higher quality of ethics instruction than most of them are presently receiving. Institutional constraints have limited the ability of the Office of Government Ethics to provide what I personally consider to be top quality support to ethics trainers throughout the government.

Rather than curse the darkness, I have decided to do what I can to fill the gap. Labor intensive presentations at several OGE conferences and 24 Training Tips columns since January 1, 2011 have been a down payment. Last fall I created the Ethics Training Resources website. I have not given it a real rollout because I have not been able to devote the time needed to bring it up to the desired level. Now I hope to be in a position to turn it into a significant resource.

Independent Commentary on Ethics Issues: To provide greater freedom for independent analysis and commentary on problems and trends in the ethics community, I am establishing a new website, Government Ethics Watch. I've registered the domain name govethicswatch.org, and hope to roll the site out in a week or two.

The title is loosely inspired by the nonprofit organization OMB Watch, but there are key differences:

  1. The new site will not be restricted to monitoring one agency, but will take a broader look at what are considered ethical issues in the government, including Hatch Act implementation, fiscal law issues, etc.
  2. The new project will be considerably more modest. It will be a volunteer project without OMB Watch's large paid staff. I'm looking for a small number of contributors who want to make a difference, and have the experience and ability to do so. If interested, send me an e-mail (lawsonmobile AT netlawtools.com) with information about your qualifications. I don't need a resume, just enough information to give me a sense of your experience and ability, to decide if an interview would be appropriate.

Jerry Lawson
May 6, 2012

Posted by IEC Team Leader in About | Permalink

May 03, 2012

IEC Contributor Pat Carney Honored

Pat Carney has not restricted his community service to extensive contributions to the Interagency Ethics Council. He has also been honored as the 2012 recipient of the Federal Communications Bar Association’s award for outstanding government service.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in News | Permalink

May 02, 2012

May 2012 IEC Mtg: Fed Reserve Bank of NY

Here is the power point presentation for this week's IEC presentation on "Advanced Financial Instruments."  There are two formats: slides or handout.

Please remember to print out a copy and bring to the presentation.  Copies will not be available at the meeting.

Posted by Account Deleted in IEC Meetings | Permalink

May 01, 2012

Training Tip 24: Using Title Slides Effectively

Every slide show needs a title slide, right?  The title slide is the right place to give your audience basic information like the name of your presentation, the name of the sponsoring organization, the date, and your name.

When should you display the title slide?  Nearly always, presenters assume it should be the first slide.  That's probably a safe choice, but when you want a little extra oomph in your presentation, consider using a trick from James Bond movies and TV shows like Jennifer Garner's late, lamented show Alias.  Not that the technique is particularly new.  In fact, the Iliad (vintage 8th Century BC)  starts "in medias res" (in the middle of things).  

Showing your title slide only AFTER you have grabbed the audience's attention is a great way to get things off with a bang. For example, for a presentation about the role of the Inspector General in handling ethics issues, I began not with a title slide, but with a sequence of slides about various scandals in the federal government.  I had one slide illustrating each scandal, and then another slide illustrating the IG response.  The subliminal message was: the Inspector General was the "solution" in each case.  The message was conveyed more effectively because I did not have to say it.  The selection and sequencing of the slides communicated the message more effectively than I could say it.

On another occasion I was giving a presentation to a group of criminal investigators.  There is a custom among some members of law enforcement of "professional courtesy."  One police officer may overlook a minor offense committed by another police officer.  Showing a badge is a way of asking for professional courtesy.  See, for example, Stroud v. Department of Treasury (upholding punishment of policy officer who showed badge during traffic stop, with hope of obtaining professional courtesy).

This issue should be addressed in ethics training for this audience, but it is tricky.  At least a few in the audience are likely to be at least somewhat sympathetic to an officer requesting professional courtesy, and it's possible some have engaged in the practice themselves.  Instructors who condemn the practice in an unconvincing way run the risk of looking like an unrealistic Goody Two Shoes and losing credibility. 

My first three slides were:

  1. The mug shot of Senator Larry Craig, arrested for solicitation in an airport.
  2. An excerpt from the arrest report indicating that Craig had shown his Senate ID to the arresting officer and, in an apparent attempt to intimidate him, asked "What do you think about that?"
  3. A picture of the front page of the Senate's Public Letter of Admonition to Craig for misuse of credentials.

Having gotten the audience's attention in a major way, then and only then did I move to the title slide.  When I subsequently used a slide about the Stroud case, I immediately followed it with a reprise of the Craig mug shot.  Not a single audience member spoke up in favor of "professional courtesy."

Why does beginning in medias res work?  Audiences tend to remember best the first part of the presentation and the last part.  Why waste the audience's prime attention on a boring title slide?  Start off with something important, something you want them to remember, something that will support a key point you intend to make later, like the Craig/Stroud connection.

Will beginning this way confuse your audiences?  Only the ones who have never seen a James Bond movie, an episode of Alias, nor any of the many similar T.V. shows. 

Starting your presentation in medias res is an example of a theme we will be exploring further in future columns: Making your shows more appealing to a generation of people who have grown up watching television and surfing the Internet.

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

Posted by J. Lawson in Technology for Trainers, Training Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

New U.S. v. POGO decision

US District Court for DC issued its decision on the case about whether a Dept of Interior employee who received a $383,600 monetary award by a group that the employee had assisted in bringing a successful false claims action, had violated 18 USC 209. The case was previously vacated by the Circuit Court (United States v. POGO, 616 F.3d 544 (DC Cir. 2010)).  The District Court ruled against the employee, in summary judgment, and ordered him to repay the entire amount of the award (United States of America v. Project on Government Oversight, DDC CA No. 03-0096 (JDB)--March 21, 2012).

See FedSmith discussion http://www.fedsmith.com/article/3357/former-fed-who-breached-his-fiduciary.html

See DC Dist Court decision Download 86909812-US-v-POGO[1]

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