November 19, 2013
Next IEC Meeting: December 5
Please join us for the next IEC meeting on December 5- Mr. Lenny Loewentritt, Deputy General Counsel, GSA, will give his annual update on the latest travel issues facing the Government. Please join us at 12:15 at the usual meeting place:
1331 F Street, NW, Floor 8.
Vacancies at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, OGE, has posted vacancy announcements for Attorney Advisor positions within the General Counsel and Legal Policy Division. OGE is the agency that provides overall direction, oversight, and accountability for Executive Branch policies designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest. OGE is also charged with promoting high ethical standards for Executive Branch employees. Individuals interested in applying should visit the following links:
Applications must be sent no later than Thursday, December 5, 2013.
House Ethics Committee ends Peter Roskam, Bill Owens reviews
The House Ethics Committee will end its reviews into whether Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) violated congressional rules during privately funded trips to Taiwan. However, the secretive panel found that Owens’ December 2011 trip to Taiwan was an improper gift because a New York lobbying firm was closely involved in putting the excursion together. But because Owens has already repaid the $22,000-plus cost of the trip, he will not be sanctioned by the Ethics Committee.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent ethics watchdog, had called for broader probes into both Roskam and Owens. The Ethics Committee did not agree to those requests. The Ethics Committee looked into whether Roskam, a top member of the House GOP leadership, accepted an impermissible gift when he and Elizabeth Roskam traveled to Taiwan in October 2011. The Ethics Committee approved the Roskams’ trip beforehand, but OCE believed the Taiwanese government and not the Chinese Culture University — the official sponsor — “was conducting and organizing his trip.”
Under the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, foreign governments are allowed to pay for such trips. However, a lawmaker cannot accept travel expenses for a spouse or family member. The Roskams’ daughter was also staying in Taiwan at that time, and OCE noted that the Roskams sought to include her as part of their itinerary for the $24,000-plus trip.
November 14, 2013
Two Secret Service Agents Removed from President's Protection Detail
Govexec.com reports: Two Secret Service agents responsible for overseeing the security detail for President Obama were quietly removed from their roles earlier this year after multiple allegations of misconduct. The agents prompted an internal investigation, according to the Washington Post's scoop on yet another story of (alleged) bad behavior at the agency. The Post's report, citing four anonymous sources, comes as the Homeland Security Department prepares to release the results of an investigation into the Secret Service's culture, prompted by the incident in Colombia.
November 08, 2013
Job Openings at DOE OGC
The job posting may be found here
Federal workers in D.C. get OK to run for office
Politico reports: Federal workers who live in Washington, D.C. will soon be able to run in contested, partisan elections without running afoul of the Hatch Act, a federal law which limits politicking by employees of the U.S. government.
Under a Office of Personnel Management rule change set to take effect next month, federal employees will be permitted to run as independents in such elections. In most of the country, federal workers are barred from running in partisan races, but a slew of communities with large populations of federal employees have exemptions based on the notion that excluding a large cohort of the community from elective offices would unfairly disrupt local governance.
The vast majority of Washington, D.C. suburbs have had waivers for decades, but the district itself was left out due to a historical legal quirk. The new regulation allowing federal employees to be independent candidates in D.C. and permitting them to work on and run such campaigns is set to be published Friday in the Federal Register and to go into effect 30 days later. Federal employees will also be able to solicit volunteers to work for partisan local campaigns, but cannot ask subordinate employees to volunteer.
See the OPM regulation here Download OPM Reg Hatch Act
November 06, 2013
Analysis: Confidence in Federal Workers Up Sharply After Shutdown
Whether a sympathy vote or a new found appreciation, many Americans seem to have taken a fresh look at the federal workforce and decided it merits more confidence.
Confidence in civilian federal workers increased significantly during the shutdown, according to a new George Washington University Battleground Poll. After hitting a low point before the shutdown, voters’ ratings of federal workers have jumped to the highest levels in five years.
Immediately before the shutdown, a GW poll had found the lowest level of confidence in federal workers since 2009, with 36 percent of respondents having little or no confidence and only 19 percent voicing a lot of confidence. Shortly after the shutdown a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters found that 29 percent have a lot of confidence and the segment voicing little or no confidence fell 15 percentage points to 21 percent.
DOD IG Cites Several Instances of Misuse of Position
The Washington Post reports:
If you’d like to play golf on government time, Steven Calvery , who runs the Pentagon’s police force, could be the boss for you. Then again, if fetching lunch and coffee for your supervisor every day doesn’t appeal, you may want to work elsewhere.
Calvery, the director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, which safeguards the building and 100 other military sites around Washington, has been dinged by the Defense Department inspector general for “misusing” his position and underlings, our colleague Craig Whitlock reports.
In a 40-page report released Monday, the inspector general also said Calvery improperly allowed an unnamed relative to blast away at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency firing range, using a PFPA weapon and ammunition. Tips and advice were provided, gratis, by two PFPA firearms instructors. The relative was applying for a job with another law enforcement agency and apparently needed some practice, the report found.
The inspector general began its misconduct investigation into Calvery after it received a couple of anonymous complaints in March 2011, as well as a letter from an unidentified U.S. senator. The inspector general labored on the inquiry for nearly two years, wrapping things up on Feb. 20, but then kept the findings quiet. On April 2, The Washington Post filed a request for the Calvery investigation under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigators found that Calvery wanted to boost the “esprit de corps” of the 1,300 folks who worked for him. So in 2009 and 2010, he decreed that anyone who wanted to play in the PFPA’s annual golf tournament would receive four hours’ paid administrative leave.
November 04, 2013
Five officials left VA in wake of conference fallout
Five Veterans Affairs Department officials involved in two costly 2011 conferences have resigned or retired since the VA inspector general faulted their roles in planning, managing and overseeing the training events in Orlando, Fla., according to a newly released congressional report.
The highest ranking, former VA chief human capital officer John Sepulveda, resigned Sept. 30, 2012, one day before the public release of the IG review alleging that he lied about his involvement in the production of a $50,000 parody video of the movie “Patton” shown at the conferences. While the departure of Sepulveda — who in a sworn affidavit denied purposefully misleading investigators — was widely reported at the time, the other four officials have since stepped down with little or no fanfare.
On Wednesday, Sepulveda repeatedly assserted his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the department’s conference spending. In a statement, his lawyer, Preston Burton. said he knew of no current investigation involving Sepulveda, but objected that the committee report failed to mention the affidavit, despite “parroting the IG’s rejected contentions.” The committee’s partisan agenda left Sepulveda little choice but to assert his constitutional right, Burton said.
John Gingrich, chief of staff to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, retired in March, according to the House committee’s report released in advance of the hearing. Tonya Deanes, previously deputy assistant secretary of human resources management, resigned earlier this year after being assigned to other duties. Also resigning were Alice Muellerweiss, dean of the VA Learning University (VALU) and Timothy Pleso, a VALU event manager who was one of the lead conference planners, the House report said. The inspector general had recommended administrative action against Gingrich, Muellerweiss and Deanes, while referring Pleso’s case to the Justice Department for prosecution for allegedly seeking and accepting improper gifts.
November 01, 2013
Homeland Security workers routinely boost pay with unearned overtime, report says
The Washington Post reports:
Federal employees at the Department of Homeland Security call it the “candy bowl,” a pot of overtime money they have long dipped into to pad their pay even if they haven’t earned it, whistleblowers say.
This practice, which can add up to 25 percent to a paycheck, has become so routine over the last generation that it’s often held out as a perk when government managers try to recruit new employees, according to these accounts.
In a report submitted to the White House and Congress on Thursday, the federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC) details what it calls a “profound and entrenched problem” at DHS and a “gross waste of government funds.” Based on the testimony of seven whistleblowers, the OSC concludes that the pervasive misuse of overtime pay in six DHS offices, including four within Customs and Border Protection (CBP), comes to $8.7 million a year.
At issue is Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime, known as AUO, which is meant only to compensate for urgent and unanticipated work like that often undertaken by law enforcement agents.
But Carolyn Lerner, special counsel at the OSC, an investigative and prosecutorial agency, said in an interview that many employees across DHS now consider the overtime pay their due. She said the whistleblowers’ testimony suggests that the department’s bill for these improper payments is running in the tens of millions of dollars a year.