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January 31, 2014

Reminder: Next IEC Meeting Feb. 6- Agencies and Private Foundations

Do you work for an agency that interacts with a private foundation? Maybe the private foundation even has a statute? Have you seen good, bad or both in the interaction between the agency and the foundation? Want to learn more about the good and the bad? Come to the IEC on February 6, and Rainee Luciano (aka Lucky Luciano) and Rich Grant of the Department of the Interior and David Taube of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will lead a panel discussion about foundations and agencies.

February 6, 12:15, U.S. Access Board, 1331 F Street, NW

Please note: The U.S. Access Board staff would like to remind attendees that there is no entry to the 8th Floor prior to noon.

See you there!

Posted by IEC Team Leader in IEC Meetings | Permalink

January 29, 2014

Transcript released of former EPA attorney's CIA tale

Govexec.com reports:  A transcript of a congressional deposition of John Beale has been released.  Beale is the Environmental Protection Agency attorney sentenced to 32 months in prison for falsely claiming his workplace absences were due to a moonlighting gig at the CIA.

Beale was sentenced Dec. 18 for defrauding the government of nearly $900,000 in misreported hours that were spent on travel overseas and at his Massachusetts vacation home. The punishment: 32 months in federal prison, two years’ probation, 100 hours of community service, $886,000 in restitution, and another $507,000 in forfeiture.

The transcript, released with approval by both parties on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, shows Beale speaking admiringly of the smarts of his onetime boss, current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who had tapped him to be in the office more often to help her run the Office of Air and Radiation. (McCarthy, at the time assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, never directly quizzed him about his bogus CIA story but did revoke a bonus she decided was contrary to policy.)

Before McCarthy, the EPA general counsel and, eventually, its inspector general realized the fraud, Beale said he had told only two colleagues and a few administrative assistants that he was working on the side as a spook -- a tall tale that grew more elaborate as the years went on. In another sign of sloppiness, he was even thrown a joint retirement party in 2012 but continued to show up intermittently at EPA and be paid well into 2013.

Asked precisely why he engineered the scam, Beale said, “That’s a good question, and I don’t know that I know all the answers. I think greed is clearly a part of it,” according to the transcript. “And I think I’ll be working on the rest of the answers for a long time trying to figure that out.”

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

January 28, 2014

Dept. of Homeland Security suspends overtime program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is suspending an overtime program that officials say has been widely abused, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

DHS officials are suspending administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO) for certain employees who work in the headquarters of department agencies, full-time training instructors and those found by DHS investigators to have improperly received the overtime.

“DHS takes seriously its responsibility to ensure proper use of taxpayer funds,” Peter Boogaard, a DHS spokesman, said by e-mail. “While many frontline officers and agents across the department require work hour flexibility, often through the use of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO), misuse of these funds is not tolerated. Late last year, DHS leadership initiated a department-wide review of the use of AUO, and today the Department announced an important initial step in reforming the use of this program.”

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources | Permalink

January 24, 2014

Judge sets July trial for former Va. governor McDonnell

The Washington Post reports:  RICHMOND — Former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, entered not guilty pleas Friday to charges that they engaged in conspiracy and fraud, trading on his office to provide assistance to a businessman in exchange for luxury gifts and loans.

The couple entered U.S. District Court about 9:15 a.m., holding hands as they walked past reporters and others waiting to watch the proceedings. Robert McDonnell hugged a priest who was in line. After a brief first appearance, the couple again held hands as they entered a second courtroom for an arraignment.

A federal judge set a trial date of July 28. The couple can remain free pending the trial.

Authorities allege that for nearly two years, the McDonnells repeatedly asked Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips and private plane rides. The gifts and loans totaled at least $165,000. In exchange, authorities allege, the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governor’s office to Williams’s struggling company, Star Scientific, a former small cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.

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

January 22, 2014

Announcing OGE’s New General Counsel

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics Announces: 

OGE has appointed David J. Apol as General Counsel. Mr. Apol’s career has prepared him well for this position. For the past decade, he served as the Chief Counsel for Administrative Law at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, leading the administrative law program of a cabinet-level agency. Before that, he served as an Associate General Counsel at OGE, where his accomplishments included both working on ethics law reform in the United States and advising a foreign government on establishing its own ethics laws at a critical time of political change. Prior to coming to OGE, Mr. Apol served as Associate Counsel to the President, advising the President, the First Lady, and senior White House officials on ethics issues and the Presidential nominee financial disclosure program. He served as an executive branch agency ethics official at the Department of Labor from 1992 to 2000, where he was charged with establishing and then managing a new Department-wide ethics program. Previously, he served as a Counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee from 1987 to 1992. Prior to coming to Washington, Mr. Apol served as a Judge Advocate General Officer in the U.S. Army where he was responsible for ethics, administrative law, international law and contract law. He is a graduate of both Wheaton College and the University of Michigan Law School.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in OGE | Permalink

GoveExec report: Thinking About Launching a Side Business?

GoveExec.com reports:  When Febe Hernandez started tinkering around with beads at a Beadazzled store in 2010, she discovered she had a talent for creating beautiful gem-studded necklaces and earrings. “I was overwhelmed by the desire to create,” she recalls. The 20-year veteran of a three-letter agency in Washington soon started selling her creations. At her first show, she sold nearly $2,000 worth of jewelry. Hernandez, now 60, soon registered her business as Designs by Febe and started expanding with regular trunk shows and a website. She has plans to open bricks-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington by 2020. Hernandez says that when she retires in the next five to seven years, she’ll focus on her jewelry business full time. “The plan is for it to provide income in retirement,” she says. (While her agency approves of her side business, it asks that she not publicly identify it by name.)

For federal employees like Hernandez, a side business can provide much-needed extra income as well a as a retirement plan. In addition to the financial security, it offers a creative outlet and a deep sense of satisfaction. Hernandez says that as much as she knows that her federal job helps others, there’s nothing like the satisfaction that she gets from hiring young people from her hometown -- the Bronx -- to help her with her business. She’s part of a growing movement of Americans launching micro-businesses on top of full-time jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 7 million workers -- about 5 percent of the workforce -- hold more than one job. The rate is 7 percent among those with professional jobs and advanced degrees. Those percentages probably vastly undercount the actual number of side-business owners, since the BLS only counts those who reported they held “more than one job” in the last week. Those that do just occasional freelance or creative work are not necessarily counted.

As common as side businesses are today, employers’ policies on outside work aren’t always clear cut, and the rules can be particularly stringent for federal employees. Avoiding conflicts of interest, abiding by all laws and agency policies, and following ethical guidelines are paramount, especially given the additional scrutiny of public sector employees. Still, even within those constraints, there’s flexibility to unleash your inner entrepreneur.

The Office of Government Ethics specifies that federal employees cannot take on any additional work that conflicts with their official duties, or accept money for teaching, speaking or writing that relates to their official duties. Some noncareer employees and appointees face an all-out ban on earning outside income while in office, and agencies can require employees to get explicit approval before starting any kind of business on the side. At least 44 agencies have supplemental standards of conducts, and many deal specifically with outside activities.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Outside Activities | Permalink

Next IEC Meeting: February 6: Agencies and Private Foundations

Do you work for an agency that interacts with a private foundation? Maybe the private foundation even has a statute? Have you seen good, bad or both in the interaction between the agency and the foundation? Want to learn more about the good and the bad? Come to the IEC on February 6, and Rainee Luciano (aka Lucky Luciano) and Rich Grant of the Department of the Interior and David Taube of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will lead a panel discussion about foundations and agencies.

February 6, 12:15, U.S. Access Board, 1331 F Street, NW

See you there!

Posted by IEC Team Leader in IEC Meetings | Permalink

January 21, 2014

Former Va. Gov. McDonnell and wife charged in gifts case

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.

Authorities alleged that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from executive Jonnie R. Williams again and again, lodging near constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides.

In exchange, authorities alleged that the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governorship to Williams’s struggling company, a small former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.

The two were charged with 14 felony counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obtaining property under color of their official office and conspiring to the do the same.

They were also charged with making false statements to a federal credit union.

McDonnell was also charged with making a false statement to a financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the investigation.

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

January 14, 2014

Ethics Attorney Opening at Federal Trade Commission

If you are an attorney with a genuine interest in helping federal employees serve with integrity, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking for you! The FTC’s Office of the General Counsel is seeking an attorney with federal ethics experience (or an express desire to practice law in this area). Candidates should be prepared to demonstrate excellent research, writing, and oral presentation skills. The FTC offers numerous benefits, including telework and other flexible work schedules. Details about this opening may be found at USAJobs: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/359055500


Posted by IEC Team Leader in Help Wanted | Permalink

January 06, 2014

Reminder! January 9 IEC Meeting: WMACCA Government Contractors Forum

January 9, 2014: Please join us at a joint meeting of the Interagency Ethics Council and the Government Contractor’s Forum of WMACCA for an afternoon of benchmarking and networking. The event is titled: WMACCA Government Contractors Forum and the Interagency Ethics Council: “I’ve looked at ethics from both sides now.” We will be comparing best practices (and maybe some that aren’t so good) regarding post-government employment restrictions, addressing difficult gift questions, achieving compliance by your employees, implementing an effective gift policy, and other wild ideas as they develop. Come and share your challenges, achievements, and bold ideas with senior ethics and compliance officials from government and industry. (Bring your own lunch if you want one. This is a brownbag event. WMACCA will provide coffee, sodas, and light refreshments).

We seek IEC member registration in advance at: http://www.cvent.com/d/44qlzz/1Q  to ensure a name badge will be ready for members when they arrive.

Networking reception: 11:30-12:00

Program: 12:00 – 2:00 (In person only. No on-line presentation).

WMACCA will apply for 2.0 hours of Virginia MCLE credit.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in IEC Meetings | Permalink

January 03, 2014

OGE Issues Legal Advisory Regarding Pay-Level Thresholds of Ethics Provisions for Calendar Year 2014

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a Legal Advisory explaining changes to the statutory pay-level thresholds for certain purposes under the Ethics in Government Act and 18 U.S.C. § 207(c).

The Legal Advisory also provides the relevant threshold amounts. For more information, please see Legal Advisory LA-14-01 dated January 3, 2014




Posted by IEC Team Leader | Permalink

SEC’s Revolving Door To Turn A Little Slower

Some senior employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission who leave for the private sector soon will be subject to the same restrictions that have long applied to most ex-SEC senior staff on lobbying their former agency.

The new regulation, which takes effect in April 2014, eliminates agency-requested exemptions for certain staff litigators from rules that bar them for a year once they’ve left federal employment from “knowingly making, with the intent to influence, any communication to or appearance before an employee of the department or agency in which he served in any capacity.” The rule applies to senior employees earning 86.5 percent of the rate of basic pay payable for level II of the Executive Schedule.

The Office of Government Ethics published the final rule in the Federal Register on Thursday.


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

January 02, 2014

Ethics Reform in Local Government

In an effort to bring more sunshine to the Old Dominion, state Del. Rob Krupicka has crafted legislation that would limit the amounts of gifts local and state officials could accept and require regular disclosure in a searchable, online database. It's part of what Krupicka expects to be a larger, bi-partisan move toward ethics reform in Virginia sparked in no small part by the Star Scientific scandal involving outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Krupicka's bill would require lawmakers and local elected officials, along with state and local government officers and employees, to electronically file a monthly gifts reports and quarterly economic interest reports. The reports would be available to the public online in a searchable online database maintained by the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office.

Further, the legislation would prevent any state or local officer or employee from accepting a single gift worth more than $100 or a combination of gifts with a total value of more than $500 from a single donor within a single filing period.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Financial Disclosure, Issues: Gifts | Permalink

Arkansas governor asks for lieutenant governor's resignation

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has asked Republican Lieutenant Gov. Mark Darr, the state's second in command, to resign over campaign finance impropriety.

Beebe called Darr on Tuesday to ask for his resignation, according to a spokesman for Beebe, after an Arkansas ethics commission ruled that Darr had broken 11 campaign finance laws since 2010.

After the call, though, Amber Pool, a spokeswoman for Darr, said the lieutenant governor had no intention of stepping down. In the wake of the ethics ruling, Darr admitted he erred on campaign finance filings, signed a letter from the ethics commission that admitted guilt, and agreed to pay $11,000 in fines.

Beebe's resignation call only holds symbolic weight. The popular governor has no authority to force Darr out because both are independent constitutional officers for the state of Arkansas. According to the governor’s spokesman, Matt DeCample, only the state legislature can force Darr to resign.

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