February 27, 2014
Next IEC Meeting, March 6: Approaching the 2nd Anniversary of the STOCK Act
President Obama signed the STOCK Act into law on April 4, 2012. The provision requiring all public financial disclosures be posted on the internet in a searchable, sortable database was modified on April 15, 2013. In addition, the STOCK Act required e-filing, notification of negotiations for future employment and compensation, and imposed limits on federal employees’ ability to participate in IPOs.
Join us at the IEC meeting on Thursday, March 6th, starting at 12:15, to discuss these issues and to hear short presentations from the panel below:
Seth Jaffe, Chief, Ethics Law and Policy Branch, OGE
Chip Christopher, Chief, Agency Assistance Branch, OGE
Cheryl Embree, Attorney, Ethics and Appeals Division, HUD
Location: U.S. Access Board, 1331 F Street, 8th Floor, NW, Washington DC, 12:15 start time
February 21, 2014
IRS Senior Execs Took Improper Tax Deductions
Career senior executives at the Internal Revenue Service improperly claimed non-taxable revenue on travel expenses, despite receiving adequate instructions from the agency, according to a newly-released audit.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said in a report published Tuesday that some IRS executives were not properly classifying their travel as “long-term taxable travel,” or LTTT. When employees travel to a single location for more than one year, or perform their principal duties away from their “official station” for an indefinite amount of time, they are required to pay taxes on any travel-related reimbursements they receive.
To conduct the review, the IG’s office took a sample of 31 IRS senior executives who could have qualified for LTTT in fiscal years 2011 and 2012. The auditors found nine managers -- or about 30 percent -- incorrectly reported their expenses as nontaxable, while three employees did not submit their records in a timely fashion. The average travel reimbursement for these employees was $51,420.
Despite providing guidance to its employees, the IRS must do a better job following up on documentation to ensure compliance, the IG’s office said. “The IRS has established adequate guidance defining when travel is taxable and employees’ and managers’ responsibility to make that determination,” the auditors wrote. “However, the guidance was not consistently followed.”
The IG recommended the IRS chief financial officer inform or remind employees of the policies related to LTTT. IRS officials agreed with the report’s findings and will implement the recommended changes.
February 19, 2014
Pentagon IG dings department historian for using ‘public office for private gain’
A recently released Pentagon inspector general’s report found that the department’s chief historian, Erin Mahan, “on occasion engaged in unprofessional conduct in the office” by “discussing personal medical issues. . . and speculating about an employee’s sexual orientation,” that “she directed two contract employees to plan, organize and execute” office social events and that she had those employees babysit when she brought her son to work and to “transport the child to and from daycare” — thus using her “public office for private gain.”
The IG also found that Mahan “improperly promised two subordinates” that each of them was in line to be the next deputy chief historian. In the report, Mahan dismissed the IG’s conclusions as based on “office gossip and uncorroborated hearsay.”
In response, the inspector general said that “we based our conclusions on the preponderance of the evidence” and “we stand by our conclusions.”
A Pentagon spokesman said last month that officials had taken unspecified “administrative action” in response to the report.
“I stand by my responses to the inspector general,” Mahan wrote. “There is no credence to any of the allegations except my momentary and isolated lapse of judgment early in my tenure of accepting help on four occasions from two contractor” historians for her “then pre-school-age son.”
Travel spending drops 18 percent in 2013
Federal travel spending fell 18 percent from fiscal 2012 to 2013 — from $8.5 billion to about $6.9 billion — and 2014 is shaping up to see even deeper cuts, according to federal data.
Travel spending in fiscal 2014 is already down about 33 percent from the same time last year at $890 million, compared to $1.3 billion, as measured by data from the General Services Administration’s SmartPay charge card program, which covers more than 2.5 million card holders across the government.
As examples of the cutbacks, GSA has canceled, for the second year, its annual Expo conference and has transitioned its SmartPay training forum into a virtual format, citing continued low levels of spending on travels and conferences.
Frank Benenati, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said part of the drop can be attributed to agencies rethinking how and where to have conferences and by using technology to reduce the need for travel. “Agencies will continue to identify savings moving forward, while balancing the need for conferences and travel,” Benenati said.
February 12, 2014
Pentagon Going Full-Speed Ahead to Improve Ethics
The two top Defense officials have made ethics reform a “No. 1 priority” across military services, lines and commands.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday that he would soon appoint a new Pentagon senior ethics officer to report directly to him because “an uncompromising culture of accountability must exist at every level of command.”
On Sunday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey promised a new campaign to restore ethics after some recent lapses—examples of which include recent news reports that Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile launch officers were arrested for narcotics possession in Montana and that Navy trainers were implicated for cheating on tests at the Navy Nuclear Propulsion School in Charleston, S.C.
“Competence and character are not mutually exclusive,” Hagel told reporters. “They are woven together – they must be.” Asked whether the apparent rise in ethical lapses was related to the past decade’s wartime pressures, Hagel said, “Was it a constant focus of 12 years on two long land wars, taking our emphasis off some of these other areas? I don't know. We intend to find out.”
February 11, 2014
Opinion from U.S. Office of Special Counsel: Hatch Act May Cover Personal Services Contractors
See the full advisory opinion here: Download Advisory Opinion re Personal Services Contractors
Opening at USTR
USTR has posted a vacancy announcement for USTR’s Chief Counsel for Administrative Law / Agency Ethics Official , a Senior Level (SL) position with a salary range of $120,749.00 to $167,000.00. Closing date: February 18, 2014 (11:59 pm EST)
Potential applicants who have status in the Federal government (i.e., most current Federal employees, former Federal employees who attained career status), should apply to vacancy announcement # USTR-14-02-KJ-MP at the following URL: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/360206700?share=email
Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may be interested in applying for this position. If you have any questions, please call the USTR HR office at 202-395-7360. The former occupant of the position, Dave Apol, would also be happy to answer any questions you might have about the position (BTW he’ll tell you it’s a good one). He can be reached at 482- 9205.
February 06, 2014
Presentation Slides for Feb. 6 IEC Meeting on Agencies and Private Foundations
Please find the meeting presentation slides here: Download IEC-Foundations.14B-public
With presenters' notes (view in upper left corner of each slide) Download IEC-Foundations.14B-public
February 05, 2014
Federal Employee Violates Hatch Act With Political Tweets
The U.S. government has opted not to prosecute a federal employee who violated the Hatch Act by tweeting about partisan political contests while on the job, the Office of Special Counsel said Tuesday.
The employee allegedly also urged Twitter followers to contribute to a Washington D.C. council candidate’s campaign.
The Hatch Act was designed to curb the appearance of political partisanship among federal employees. The law allows some federal employees to support candidates on social media when they’re not on the clock but does not allow them to urge other people to donate to those candidates.
The Office of Special Counsel decided not to prosecute the partisan tweeter after the employee resigned in December, the office said in a press release on Tuesday. The employee posted more than 30 partisan tweets while on duty, the office said, many of them in support of D.C. Council candidate Kenyan McDuffie, who went on to win his Ward 5 council seat in May of 2012. The two tweets mentioned in the press release both match tweets posted by a tweeter using the handle @IMGoph who also blogs at The District Curmudgeon and posted numerous other tweets about the Kenyan campaign. The District Curmudgeon blogger also plans to move to California, according to a post earlier this month, a detail that comports with the Office of Special Counsel release.
The Office of Special Counsel did not immediately respond to a request to verify that @IMGoph was the Hatch Act violator and @IMGoph did not respond to Nextgov requests for comment via Twitter and email. The employee knew the tweets violated the Hatch Act but posted them anyway, the office said.
February 04, 2014
N.J. Democrat Rob Andrews expected to resign from Congress
The Washington Post reports: Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) plans to resign from Congress later this month to take a job with a Philadelphia law firm, according to a senior House aide familiar with his plans.
Andrews has faced allegations that he violated House rules and federal law by using campaign funds to pay for personal trips to Scotland and Los Angeles and by using a graduation party for his daughter to raise campaign cash.
A report released in 2012 detailed how in May 2011 Andrews initially used personal funds to pay roughly $16,500 for four business-class airplane tickets for himself, his wife and two daughters to attend a wedding in Scotland. Andrews later had the money refunded and paid for the tickets with funds from his leadership PAC and has generally denied any wrongdoing.
February 03, 2014
Vacancy at the Food and Drug Administration
The FDA’s Division of Ethics and Integrity administers the agency-wide ethics program. The vacancy is for an experienced ethics official to serve as the technical authority in providing advice and counsel to other Division ethics officials in the completion of assignments and projects and serving as advisor in ethics related matters. Candidates will be expected to be able to exhibit potential for a leadership/management in the office.
The vacancy announcement closes on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. The link to the announcement is below:
February 01, 2014
Happy Anniversary IEC Journal!!
The first IEC Journal post was published on this date, February 1, in 2004. It's been a great 10 years of ethics news, announcements and collaboration! Happy Anniversary IEC Journal- here's to many more years of ethics greatness!
-A special thanks to IEC Journal creator, Jerry Lawson, for reminding us of this special date!