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October 28, 2013

Next IEC Meeting- November 7, featuring OGE Director Walter Shaub

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. The IEC team will have a short planning meeting after the main presentation to discuss 2014 programming- all are welcome to come with their ideas! See you there!

Posted by IEC Team Leader in IEC Meetings | Permalink

October 25, 2013

Former USAID Senior Official to Pay Civil Penalty for Alleged Conflict of Interest Violation

David Ostermeyer, who retired from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2012, will pay the government a $30,000 penalty to settle allegations that he participated in a matter in which he had a financial interest that conflicted with his duties when he was Chief Financial Officer of the agency, the Justice Department announced today.

“We expect government officials to earn and maintain the trust of taxpayers by acting with the highest integrity,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “This requires, at a minimum, that they do their work free of prohibited conflicts of interest. The Justice Department will pursue those who violate their ethical obligations.”

The government alleged that shortly before Ostermeyer retired from USAID, he helped the agency draft a contract solicitation for a senior advisor – a position that Ostermeyer intended to apply for after he retired. In an effort to ensure he would be awarded the position, Ostermeyer allegedly tailored the solicitation to his specific skills and experiences.

Federal conflict of interest laws prohibit executive branch employees from participating personally and substantially in matters in which they have a financial interest. Since Ostermeyer had a financial interest in the contract solicitation, the government alleged that he could not participate in drafting it and, therefore, violated 18 U.S.C. § 208(a).

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

October 24, 2013

DOD's Revolving Door in Full Swing

Politco.com reports:  Hundreds of Defense Department officials requested ethics opinions from the government over the past two years as they retired from the military and sought jobs with private companies or organizations.

The ethics opinions are required for certain current and recently retired officials, including those involved in procurement decisions, before they’re allowed to take new jobs with defense companies.

The Defense Department released a database of the ethics opinions to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had sued the department after a public records request was denied. CREW provided an early copy of the database exclusively to POLITICO.

Many officials leave the department with specific landing spots in mind.  From January 2012 to May 2013, 379 current or recently retired officials requested ethics opinions, which are mandated under a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008.

 

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

October 21, 2013

Senior officer, NCIS agent are among those arrested in Navy bribery scandal

The U.S. Navy is being rocked by a bribery scandal that federal investigators say has reached high into the officer corps and exposed a massive overbilling scheme run by an Asian defense contractor that provided prostitutes and other kickbacks.

Among those arrested on corruption charges are a senior agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a Navy commander who escaped Cambodia’s “killing fields” as a child only to make a triumphant return to the country decades later as the skipper of a U.S. destroyer.

The investigation has also ensnared a Navy captain who was relieved of his ship’s command this month in Japan. The chief executive of the Singapore-based defense contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, and another company official were arrested last month at a San Diego harborside hotel after federal investigators lured them to the United States by arranging a sham meeting with Navy officials, according to court records and people involved in the case.

The unfolding investigation is shaping up as the biggest fraud case in years for the Navy. Federal prosecutors allege that Glenn Defense Marine, which has serviced and supplied Navy ships and submarines at ports around the Pacific for a quarter-century, routinely overbilled for everything from tugboats to fuel to sewage disposal.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Misuse of Position | Permalink

Contract attorney faces felony overbilling case, allegedly claimed over 24 hours on 80 work days

An Iowa lawyer is facing felony charges after allegedly obtaining nearly $178,000 in improper payments, between 2007 and 2011, for his work as a contract attorney for the state public defenders office.

Ney McDaniel, 60, is charged with theft and fraudulent practice concerning his work in Clay County, reports Radio Iowa.  

An audit found that McDaniel claimed to have put in more than 24 hours of work on 80 different days, the station says. Because the state contract payment system is focused on specific matters, rather than individual lawyers, special efforts are needed to figure out how many hours of work an individual has claimed per day, explained State Auditor Mary Mosiman. After the McDaniel investigation, a statewide review was conducted of work by outside lawyers for the public defender and the contracts of four other attorneys were terminated.

McDaniel and his lawyer didn't respond to requests for comment by the station.

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

October 18, 2013

OGE Provides Guidance on the Application of the Periodic Transaction Reporting Requirements during the Lapse in Appropriations

OGE has been asked by several agencies whether Government employees who are subject to the public filing requirements of the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA) should have continued filing periodic transaction reports (OGE Form 278-T) during the lapse in appropriations.

While there is no authority in EIGA to suspend the filing requirement, an agency DAEO has authority to grant an extension to any employee who was unable to file a periodic transaction report during the lapse in appropriations. Under the circumstances of the lapse in appropriations, the extension may be granted retroactively. The extension may be up to 90days.

Beyond the 90-day extension deadline, the DAEO may waive the $200 late filing fee in “extraordinary circumstances.” An agency DAEO would be acting well within his or her discretion in determining that the lapse in appropriations is an “extraordinary circumstance.”

Below are two excerpts from a June 20, 2012 OGE Legal Advisory (LA-12-04) regarding periodic transaction reports that may be useful for agencies considering granting a filing extension or waiving a late filing fee.

Q10. May agencies grant extensions of filing deadlines? Yes. Subsection 101(g)(1) of EIGA provides for reasonable extensions for filing “any report,” but limits the total length of extensions to 90 calendar days. 5 U.S.C. app. 4, § 101(g)(1). An agency ethics official may grant extensions for good cause shown. 5 U.S.C. app. 4, § 101(g)(1); 5 C.F.R. § 2634.201(f). For example, an agency should toll the deadline while an employee is on official or personal travel at the time of notification or shortly after notification. If an extension pushes the deadline for a periodic transaction report beyond the deadline for subsequent periodic transaction reports, the deadline for all such reports will be the date on which the extension expires. In that case, the employee may combine all disclosures in a single periodic transaction report. Extensions may be granted before or after the filing deadline, but 90 days is the maximum total length of such extensions.

Q13. When should the $200 late filing fee be waived? Agencies have the authority under EIGA to waive the $200 fee in extraordinary circumstances. 5 U.S.C. app. 4, § 104(d)(2); 5 C.F.R. § 2634.704(b). . . . In some cases, the meaning of “extraordinary circumstances” is readily apparent. OGE’s regulations provide that an extraordinary circumstance exists when “the agency's failure to notify a new entrant, first-time annual filer, or termination filer of the requirement to file the public financial disclosure report . . . made the delay reasonably necessary.” 5 C.F.R. § 2634.704(b)(1). Likewise, an extraordinary circumstance logically exists when an employee has no legal right or ability to acquire transaction information before the deadline. Other non-exclusive examples of “extraordinary circumstances” include: a family emergency, such as illness, death, a flood, or a fire; the employee’s unawareness that a position to which the employee was transferred or detailed was subject to public filing; and agency administrative errors prevented the filer from filing reports on time. See OGE DAEOgram, DO-94-002 (January 14, 1994).

OGE will continue to provide guidance on ethics questions that arise as a result of the lapse in appropriations and the return to normal Government operations. As always, please feel free to contact your OGE Desk Officer if you require additional guidance or assistance.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in OGE | Permalink

October 17, 2013

Pharmaceutical firms paid to attend meetings of panel that advises FDA

A scientific panel that shaped the federal government’s policy for testing the safety and effectiveness of painkillers was funded by major pharmaceutical companies that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to affect the thinking of the Food and Drug Administration, according to hundreds of e-mails obtained by a public records request.

The e-mails show that the companies paid as much as $25,000 to attend any given meeting of the panel, which had been set up by two academics to provide advice to the FDA on how to weigh the evidence from clinical trials. A leading FDA official later called the group “an essential collaborative effort.”

Patient advocacy groups said the electronic communications suggest that the regulators had become too close to the companies trying to crack into the $9 billion painkiller market in the United States. FDA officials who regulate painkillers sat on the steering committee of the panel, which met in private, and co-wrote papers with employees of pharmaceutical companies.

 

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

October 01, 2013

October 3 IEC Meeting Update

In case of government shutdown this Thursday, October 3, the IEC meeting featuring a presentation from the Director, Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, will be re-scheduled for a later date.  Please check in with the IEC web site for updates.   

Posted by IEC Team Leader in IEC Meetings | Permalink