September 30, 2013
OGE Issues a Legal Advisory on the Application of Ethics Laws to Federal Government Employees in the Event of a Government Shutdown
OGE has issued a legal advisory reminding Federal employees that the ethics laws and regulations would continue to apply while in a furlough status in the event of a Government shutdown. For more information, please see Legal Advisory LA-13-11, dated September 30, 2013:
September 28, 2013
Ex-EPA official pleads guilty to theft, pretended to work for the CIA
A former high-level official at the Environmental Protection Agency pleaded guilty Friday to stealing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars by pretending to work for the CIA.
For years, John C. Beale disappeared from the office and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses he was doing top-secret work. Beale never worked for the CIA, never had top-secret security clearance and carried on a “pattern of deception for over 10 years,” said magistrate Judge John M. Facciola.
Beale, 64, was charged in August with collecting nearly $900,000 in pay and bonuses for work he avoided performing at EPA. New details emerged Friday about Beale’s scheme. During a 12-year period, prosecutors said, he was away from the office for at least 102 days under the guise of working for the CIA. He took five personal trips to Los Angeles for what he said was a “special research project” and charged the government $57,000 for his travel. To obtain a parking space, Beale lied to his managers about having contracted malaria while serving in Vietnam. He never served in Vietnam, according to the statement of offence Facciola summarized in court.
Mark Lowenthal, a former CIA official who is now president of the Intelligence & Security Academy, said a person who was legitimately working undercover would never have explicitly told colleagues as Beale did, “I’ve got secret work to do.” “His whole story was wholly implausible, and unfortunately, somebody should have been smart enough to realize,” Lowenthal said. “But this is Washington and people never know who is who, and are tickled by the secret stuff going on.”
September 27, 2013
Lawyer is accused of faking illness to avoid oral arguments; ethics complaint says he didn’t vomit
An Illinois lawyer is accused in an ethics complaint of faking illness to avoid oral arguments before the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Aug. 29 complaint by the Illinois Registration and Disciplinary Commission alleges that Michael Joseph Finn told a court clerk on April 14, 2011—the day of oral arguments—that he had vomited that morning and was too ill to come to court. In reality, the complaint alleges, Finn was not ill. “He did not vomit and he was well enough to go to court,” the complaint alleges. “Respondent did not go to court because he felt unprepared.”
The complaint does not cite the basis for that conclusion. It does say Finn had paid a brief writer $5,000 to prepare drafts of appeals briefs on behalf of his client, Kenneth Clark. Finn had accepted $15,000 to represent Clark.
According to the complaint, the clerk’s office told Finn to keep his phone nearby in case his appearance was required, but Finn did not answer or return phone messages left by the clerk.
The 7th Circuit panel held oral arguments without Finn, and Finn’s client lost the appeal. In an order to show cause, the appeals court said Finn should supply medical documentation of his illness, such as a certificate showing his admission to a hospital emergency room. Finn supplied no documentation, and the court fined him $1,000 in its Sept. 15, 2011 opinion, the complaint says.
Analysis: Trust in Federal Workers Hits New Low
GovExec reports: American confidence in federal employees has hit a new low, according to a nationwide poll of 800 registered voters released today by The George Washington University. More than one-third of survey respondents -- 35 percent -- voiced “little or no confidence” in federal workers, up sharply from 23 percent in 2011. Only 19 percent of voters said they have “a lot of confidence” in federal workers, while 41 percent indicated “some confidence” and 5 percent were unsure.
Eroding respect for federal service is not a trivial matter. Essential compliance with laws and regulations is built on trust in the fair, responsible implementation of those laws and regulations. Since 2009, phone surveys about American attitudes toward federal workers have been conducted for GW during the third quarter of each year by the Tarrance Group.
Despite this lack of trust, Americans still believe the federal government is a desirable career path. About three-quarters of registered voters, or 73 percent, still say they would encourage a young person to consider a federal job. Fewer than one in five, or 19 percent, would discourage a career in civil service.
September 26, 2013
Navy Commander and NCIS Agent Charged in Bribery Scheme
A U.S. Navy commander, an NCIS Special agent and a Singapore businessman have been charged in what prosecutors call a worldwide bribery scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contracts.
The case involves a multinational company that supplies Navy ships with food, water and waste services when they dock at countries in Asia. Leonard Francis, CEO of the Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., was arrested in San Diego Monday and appeared in San Diego Federal Court Tuesday on charges in two separate bribery investigations. Francis, 58, allegedly bribed U.S. Navy Commander Mike Misiewicz, 46, to redirect U.S. Navy vessels to ports his company would benefit from, according to court documents obtained by NBC 7 News. He then allegedly bribed NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau, 36, to gain confidential information in a fraud investigation, the documents say.
All three have been charged with conspiring to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
September 24, 2013
IRS Accepts Retirement of Official at Center of Scandal
Lois Lerner, the head of the Internal Revenue Service division under fire since May for alleged political targeting of conservative groups, submitted her resignation Monday morning after months of administrative leave, the agency acknowledged. “We can confirm today that Lois Lerner has retired,” the IRS said in a statement. “Under federal privacy rules, the IRS cannot comment further on individual employee matters.”
Acting Internal Revenue Commissioner Danny Werfel has been implementing reforms of the troubled agency, including the empaneling of an Accountability Review Board, while also following established rules on personnel actions, the agency said. Earlier this month, Werfel was pressed by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee to explain why Lerner continued to collect a paycheck after she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to testify on her two-year role supervising the processing of applications for tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups and judging the extent to which the groups are political. Republicans also criticized her use of private email for some official communication and her past work for the Federal Election Commission.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement saying, “Lerner’s exit from the IRS does not alter the Oversight Committee’s interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs. We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress. Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the committee’s interest in hearing her testimony.”
September 22, 2013
Tom DeLay conviction overturned by Texas court
The Washington Post reports: A Texas appellate court has overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for allegedly scheming to influence Texas state elections with corporate money. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the conviction, calling the evidence "legally insufficient," according to court papers released Thursday.
The decision formally acquits DeLay of all charges, but it could still be appealed by the government. (Read the court's majority opinion and dissenting opinions.)
DeLay, 66, was convicted in 2010 for allegedly trying to influence Texas elections by funneling corporate money to various candidates. Prosecutors said that the money helped the GOP win control of the Texas House and that the majority then pushed through a DeLay-organized congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress. DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison, but remained free while awaiting appeal rulings.
September 19, 2013
Next IEC Meeting: October 3 Featuring Guest Speaker, Walter Shaub, Director OGE
Please join us at the next IEC meeting where Walter Shaub, Director of the Office of Government Ethics, will discuss "Current Events at OGE."
The meeting will be held at the usual place, 1331 F Street, NW, Washington DC, Floor 8, from 12:15-1:30.
See you there!
Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General Report on New Media
The DHS Office of Inspector General has published a report titled "New Media for Offices of Inspectors General: A Discussion of Legal, Privacy and Information Security Issues." The report specifically addresses ethics concerns with social media use, starting on page 39 of the report. The complete report may be found here: Download Final New Media
September 18, 2013
D.C. Council censures Marion Barry for taking cash payments from city contractorsThe Washington Post reports: D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, was censured Tuesday by his D.C. Council colleagues for taking thousands of dollars in cash payments from contractors with business before the city. The council voted 9 to 4 to strip Barry of his committee chairmanship, with some colleagues describing Barry’s lapse as another mark on the city’s dismal ethics record. In the past two years, three council members have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.
September 13, 2013
Job Opening at Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
Please see the link to the job opening for Assistant General Counsel (Chief, Financial Disclosure Staff)
September 12, 2013
House Ethics Committee Decides Against Full-Scale Investigations of Four Lawmakers
The House Ethics Committee won’t move forward with full-scale investigations into four lawmakers — Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), John Tierney (D-Mass.) and Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) — but will continue to review three of those cases, the secretive panel announced on Wednesday. The panel voted to end outright its review of the allegations against Tierney. The Ethics Committee’s announcement that it will continue to look into Roskam, Bachmann, and Bishop but not launch full-scale investigations is the latest in a growing trend by the panel.
The committee has declined to empanel special investigative subcommittees to handle these matters, but then also has refused to end their investigations outright. The cases then sit in limbo, although based on past practice, the members face little chance of sanction by the committee. The Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent watchdog agency, recommended full investigations of all four lawmakers over the alleged violations. The Ethics Committee reviewed the cases for a three-month period before its Wednesday announcement.
September 11, 2013
Article on Ethics in the Sports World
Michelle Simms, Director of the Air Force Ethics Office, shares her article on ethics in the sports world. The article may be found here http://afgeneralcounsel.dodlive.mil/2013/09/11/2436/
September 10, 2013
Hatch Act probe nets hundreds; few penalized
Federal Times reports: During the fall 2008 presidential campaigns by then-Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, an Education Department civil rights attorney zipped off an email that favorably compared President Obama’s education credentials against those of then-Presidential candidate John McCain, adding “Please send this to your friends and colleagues who vote.” That was only one of 204 emails by the attorney that investigators thought were potentially unlawful under the Hatch Act, which bars political activity by civil servants in the workplace.
In a separate exchange, a former Education Department executive sent an email on her work account about an upcoming sportsman-themed fundraiser for the McCain campaign. “Feel free to forward this to anyone who you think might be interested in attending,” the message read. In all, 870 Education Department employees — roughly one out of five at the agency — were found by investigators to have sent at least one email containing the name of a 2008 political candidate. Of those employees, the department’s inspector general’s office referred 21 cases to the Office of Special Counsel, the government’s top enforcer of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act bars partisan activity by civil servants in the workplace. Among other activities, the Act prohibits “participation in political activities while on duty, in uniform, in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties.” The case raises questions about how committed agencies are to enforcing the Hatch Act as well as the amount of time spent by the employees reading and writing politically oriented emails.
Until recently, OSC had limited options in pursuing discipline. Violations meant automatic firing unless the Merit Systems Protection Board found, by unanimous vote, that a violation didn’t warrant firing, in which case suspension was an option. Under new rules put in place by Congress after this Education Department investigation, OSC now can also fine, suspend or reprimand employees.
September 06, 2013
Announcement of First Meeting of IEC Ethics Training Methods and Ideas Committee, Sept. 20
The IEC Ethics Training Methods and Ideas Committee is being resuscitated!!! Get and share ideas for improving your agency's Initial, Annual, and specialized population (e.g. Procurement and Grants Personnel, Political Appointees, IPAs and SGEs, etc.) ethics training and employee ethics job aids such Ethics Flipbooks, podcasts, social media...does your agency have an employee ethics app? You Tube site? Twitter feed? Learn how to do the famous USAG DAEO's Ethics one pagers for senior officials? Do you know how to incorporate current ethics events into your ethics training? Do you have an interactive agency Ethics website with games, info papers, etc?? If you do, come show others how you did it! If you don't come to our meetings and learn how to energize your ethics office training and outreach!
WHEN: 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm, Friday September 20, 2013
WHERE: FEMA HQ, 500 C Street SW, Suite 840, Washington DC. (Entry requires Gov't I'd or FEMA Escort). FEMA is located in the middle of the Capitol Hill Holiday Inn, one block from the L'Efant Metro station (Maryland Ave exit) Blue, Orange, Yellow and Green Lines
Please contact IEC Ethics Training Committee Chair Paul Conrad prior to September 20 if you plan to attend the meeting, so I can speed your entry into our secure office space. Paul Conrad, Senior Ethics Attorney (Training), FEMA Office of the Chief Counsel Paul.Conrad2@fema.dhs.gov
Paul Conrad Phone Contact: 202 646 4025 Desk 202 531 6547 Blackberry 540 993 9459 Personal Cell
September 05, 2013
Former senior EPA adviser Beale expected to plead guilty in $900,000 pay fraud
The Washington Post reports:
Over the past 12 years, John C. Beale was often away from his job as a high-level staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency. He cultivated an air of mystery and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses that he was doing top-secret work, including for the CIA. For years, apparently, no one checked.
Now, Beale is charged with stealing nearly $900,000 from the EPA by receiving pay and bonuses he did not deserve. He faces up to three years in prison.
Beale, 64, who was a senior policy adviser in the Office of Air and Radiation, is expected to plead guilty at a hearing scheduled for Monday at U.S. District Court in Washington. “This is a situation where one individual went to great lengths to deceive and defraud the U.S. government,” said EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson. Beale’s attorney, John W. Kern, declined to comment on the case, as did a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.
At agency headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, Beale fostered an enigmatic image. He frequently traveled to China, South Africa and England, according to several people who worked with him. He would describe his trips and mention a lingering case of malaria. The Arlington County resident told colleagues that his stints away from the office were for “sensitive work for another agency,” according to an official familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending.