May 15, 2013
Sentencing postponed for Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel
The Washington Post reports: The legal case for Scott J. Bloch, the former head of the federal agency that protects government whistleblowers, continued Monday when a federal judge balked at proceeding with sentencing because of what he called an “improperly sanitized version of events.”
Bloch, the Bush-era head of the Office of Special Counsel, pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of destroying government property when he ordered the deletion of office computer files by private technicians.
Bloch admitted in 2010 that he had not given House investigators complete information about an incident in which he hired a company called Geeks on Call to scrub computers at the Office of Special Counsel. At the time, Bloch had been accused of retaliating against his staff and closing whistleblower cases without proper investigation. He has maintained that he was trying to deal with a computer virus.
Bloch was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail, but a federal judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because neither side in the case had been aware that the offense required a sentence of jail time.
Congress to Investigate Whether IRS Employees Mishandled Sensitive Data
House and Senate lawmakers plan to investigate whether tax agency officials exploited stored sensitive information about conservative political organizations that filed for tax-exempt status, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
The IRS apologized May 10 for applying extra scrutiny to groups whose names included words such as "tea party" and "patriot" when vetting the organizations for compliance with tax laws. It’s not clear if IRS employees with computer privileges mishandled sensitive information related to the targeted organizations, such as disclosing donor lists to unauthorized individuals. A draft inspector general timeline outlining the evolution of the policy on reviewing tax-exempt applications obtained by Nextgov states IRS officials decided certain sensitive data could be expunged. “The requested donor information could be destroyed . . . It does not need to be kept in the administrative file,” the government documents state.So far, there have been no indications agency personnel violated data protection rules for tax documents. Nonetheless, abuse of the conservative groups’ information is a worry, according to staff for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. The aides said lawmakers plan to address the issue at a committee hearing Friday on the IRS’s political profiling of applicants for tax-exempt status.
May 04, 2013
D.C. Council member Orange disciplined by ethics board
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange was admonished by the city’s ethics board Thursday after it concluded that he had improperly interfered with health inspectors who were trying to close a rat-infested business.
Orange, who was ordered to attend ethics training, is the first council member to be admonished by the relatively new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
May 03, 2013
Commerce agents plead guilty to fraud against agency
Two former Commerce agents who allegedly accused superiors of wrongdoing pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing false expense claims and clocking hours they didn’t work, according to the Justice Department.
Rachel Ondrik, 35, of Frederick and Kirk Yamatani, 38, of Ashburn, who worked as special agents for the inspector general’s office of the Commerce Department, sought payment for more than $36,000 each in false relocation expenses, according to their plea agreements.The former agents also committed time and attendance fraud, the Justice Department said. As part of their pleas, Ondrik and Yamatani agreed to probation and $42,000 each in fines and restitution to the government.
May 01, 2013
Charges Filed in Contract Fraud Probe
Kathleen McGrade was a contract specialist inside the State Department, but prosecutors say she didn’t live like one. Steering tens of millions of dollars in work to a company controlled by her husband, McGrade bought a yacht, penthouse condo and lots of jewelry, according to charges unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
McGrade, 64, and her husband, Brian C. Collinsworth, 46, both of Fredericksburg, Va., face up to 20 years in prison on charges stemming from what authorities called a “secret scheme” by the couple to steer more than $60 million to a company they controlled.
April 30, 2013
ABA opinion cautions judges to avoid ethics pitfalls of social media
Judges don’t have to sit by the now-proverbial telephone hoping to make contact with the rest of the world. Instead, they may join the growing numbers of people who participate in electronic social networking.
That was the conclusion reached by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in its Formal Opinion 462 (Judge’s Use of Electronic Social Networking Media), issued on Feb. 21. (ABA ethics opinions are identified by the numeric order in which they are issued, but Opinion 462 is the first one since the 1980s that does not also include a two-digit prefix designating the year of issuance.)
In its opinion, the ethics committee notes that electronic social media “has become an everyday part of worldwide culture.” The opinion describes ESM as Internet-based electronic social networking sites that require an individual to affirmatively join and accept or reject connection with particular individuals.
But the opinion also urges judges to enter this particular electronic highway with extreme caution, for two primary reasons: first, the Model Code of Judicial Conduct does not specifically address a judge’s participation in electronic social media and second, judges must be careful what they post, as wide dissemination has the potential to compromise or appear to compromise the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judge, as well as to undermine public confidence in the judiciary.
April 17, 2013
New policies may change MWAA executives’ travel practices
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has earned praise from Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for changes to the authority’s travel and ethics policies after revelations that some board members spent lavishly on plane tickets and meals.
Documents detailing the expenses of top MWAA executives, however, show that some of them have similarly pricey tastes and, under new policies, may have to cut back on their business travel and meal expenses.
During the 15-month period covered by the documents, at least four top MWAA officials — the vice presidents for air-service development, finance and business administration and the now-former vice president for information and telecommunication services — each filed more than $10,000 in expenses. One MWAA vice president purchased a plane ticket that cost $12,000, according to the records, which were obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act. By contrast, John E. “Jack” Potter, the MWAA’s president and chief executive, spent just under $3,500 during the time covered by the documents.
None of the expenses appear to violate the MWAA policies in place at the time, but they add new context to the controversy that erupted last summer over the expenses of another top MWAA official.
April 12, 2013
Contractor pleads guilty in bribery, bid-rigging case
A northern Virginia technology contracting firm and its former president pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington to bribery charges in what prosecutors call the largest bid rigging scam in federal contracting history.
The company, Nova Datacom, admitted paying more than $15 million in bribes to three officials in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army, according to prosecutors. The investigation found more than $30 million bilked by corrupt contractors and officials through inflated and bogus invoices.
Nova Datacom’s former president, Min Jung Cho, 44, faces up to five years in prison and the company faces up to $79.2 million in fines. No sentencing date has been set. The ringleader of the scam, former Army Corps contracting official Kerry Khan, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing in July. In a statement, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen said 15 individuals have pleaded guilty in the investigation.
Mitch McConnell Hit With Ethics Complaint Over Leaked Ashley Judd Tape
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been hit with an ethics complaint after a leaked tape revealed he was discussing with aides how to take on potential opponent Ashley Judd.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked the Senate ethics committee and the FBI to investigate whether McConnell was having a discussion about potential Judd weaknesses -- including her mental health and religion -- on government time.“Using taxpayer-funded resources to pay staffers to dig up dirt on political opponents isn’t just an ethics violation, it’s a federal crime,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “As Sen. McConnell requested, the FBI is investigating the recording. A thorough and fair investigation necessitates the bureau also inquire into whether Sen. McConnell himself violated the law.”
April 02, 2013
Former Army Corps of Engineers Program Manager to be Sentenced for Contracting Scam
Former Army Corps of Engineers program manager Kerry Khan pleaded guilty in May 2012 to bribery and contract bid-rigging charges and will be sentenced this July.In all, Khan and his associates had illegally pocketed more than $30 million in kickbacks and bribes over almost five years. When authorities finally arrested Khan in October 2011, he had been planning an even bigger scheme to steer a nearly $1 billion federal contract.
Here is how Khan's operation generally worked: Contractors involved in the scheme submitted bogus invoices, which the Army Corps — with Khan’s help — paid out. In exchange, the money from those invoices went to payoffs and kickbacks through various businesses, records show. The kickback scheme involved a big Army Corps contract known as TIGER, for Technology for Infrastructure, Geospatial and Environmental Requirements. Until their arrests in fall 2011, Khan and others planned to steer another nearly $1 billion contract known as CORES, for Contingency Operations Readiness Engineering and Support, prosecutors said. During one of the early court hearings in the case, Michael Atkinson, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the operation centered on an informal holding company, which he called “Khan Incorporated.” “Of course, the public did not know that it was investing in Khan Incorporated, since the money that was used to fund Khan Incorporated was stolen,” he said. Among others who pleaded guilty were Khan’s brother, Nazim Khan, and son, Lee Khan.
March 14, 2013
March Madness! Ethics Guidance
IEC member Paul Conrad shares the annual March Madness ethics guidance- thanks Paul!
The guidance may be found here Download March Madness 2013
September 04, 2012
House Ethics Committee Extends Investigation of New Jersey Congressman
The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it will take more time to review allegations that a congressman representing New Jersey misused campaign funds by spending them on personal expenses, including a family trip to Scotland and a high school graduation party for his daughter.
The committee also released a detailed report on the practices of Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews that it received in March from the Office of Congressional Ethics. That report found there is “substantial reason to believe” that Andrews inappropriately used campaign funds to take his family to Scotland for a wedding, to make multiple trips to California and for a party held in honor of the high school graduation of one of his daughters and the 20th anniversary of his congressional service. All were in 2011.
As it released the report, the Ethics Committee said it does not indicate that there was a violation.
February 13, 2012
Ethics Related News
- A former IRS employee used his knowledge of the IRS for personal gain, and received a 9 year sentence as well as an order to repay $30,649. Read the DOJ press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/February/12-tax-193.html
- US Postal Service defense its use of official travel. See GovExec article: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/02/postal-regulator-defends-travel-records-after-senator-demands-details/41162/
February 09, 2012
Four Year Prison Term for Accepting Bribe
Thanks to the esteemed Steve Epstein for forwarding a tip to a press release concerning a government employee sentenced to four years in prison for what was referred to as a "relatively small" bribe of $189,000.
February 06, 2012
Shelby's STOCK Act
GovExec article discusses the implications of Congressman Shelby's amendments to the STOCK Act, introduced to address concerns about Congressmen not being covered by insider trading laws. Under the amendment the impact has been expanded to try to cover many Executive Branch personnel. As currently contemplated, the law could require:
- Electronic availability of Public Financial Disclosure report
- Posting of all stock trades of certain personnel, where the transaction exceeds $1,000, for all or some financial disclosure filers
For details about the various STOCK Act versions, see http://insidertrading.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004520.
October 13, 2011
Former DODEA Chief Fired
Stars and Stripes reports on the firing of a senior DoD official who is reported to have "used her power to secure jobs for friends and relatives, received pay to which she was not entitled and engaged in 'unprofessional conduct and speech.' ”
August 11, 2011
Letters of Recommendation Tip
The ever-generous Mark Stone shared a short explanation of writing letters of recommendation, based on 5 CFR 2635.702(b), worthy of publication in an organization's newsletter:
We routinely answer questions concerning the legality of government employees writing letters of recommendation. Government ethics rules do not prohibit government employees from writing letters of recommendation. However, there are conditions that must be met if a government employee would like to use official stationery and his or her official title in the signature block of a letter of recommendation. In order for a government employee to write a letter of recommendation and to use his or her official title and official stationery, all of the following three conditions must be met. First, the letter has been requested by the individual, OR by a company or organization that is considering the individual for some type of position or benefit. Second, the government employee has personal knowledge of the ability or character of the individual. Third, the government employee has dealt with the individual in the course of Federal employment, OR the government employee is recommending the individual for Federal employment. If you have any questions on this subject, please contact Mr. Smith at 555-1234.
Contact Mr. Stone to be added to his e-mail mailing list (address modified to reduce spam):
Mark --DOT-- Stone --AT-- wpafb -- DOT af --DOT-- mil
August 10, 2011
Senior Official Resignation Follows USPS IG Report
Federal Times has a lengthy story about the resignation of a member of the Postal Service Board of Governors after an IG report alleged ethical abuses. Here is an excerpt:
The IG report found that Kessler pressed other postal executives to back off a plan to purchase property that the Postal Service was leasing for a post office and vehicle maintenance facility in Sarasota, Fla. The agency had been leasing the property since 1965 and had an option to buy it at any time at a highly favorable price, the IG report said.
In a May 2 statement to Inspector General David Williams, Kessler's attorney said Kessler denied those charges. Kessler received many inquiries from members of the public and forwarded their concerns to the appropriate postal officials, the attorney said.
The statement said Kessler's involvement in the matter was sporadic and limited to a handful of phone calls with Band and emails to arrange those phone calls. Kessler forwarded emails from Band to postal officials and sent follow-up emails, his attorney said.
"There is no indication that Mr. Kessler improperly influenced or even attempted to improperly influence the Postal Service on this matter, nor did he have any reason to do so," the statement said. "Mr. Kessler had no personal, professional or financial interest in the outcome of the dispute."
Federal Times obtained a copy of the IG report through a FOIA request.
August 01, 2011
In Wake of Scandal, Florida County Expands Reach of Ethics Rules
An article in the Sun-Sentinel describes how voters and elected officials reacted to the ethical scandal that forced Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons to resign from his post amidst allegations of misuse of office. Because Koons was the fourth county commissioner to be ousted, voters approved countywide ethics reform, expanding the ethics code to all 38 cities, towns and villages in Palm Beach County. Koons was prosecuted for his crimes (including extortion) by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, showing that the county and state are beginning to take these missteps much more seriously than in the past. Finally, the case brought the Government in the Sunshine Law to the forefront, causing local officials to request an exemption from the law's requirements.
July 21, 2011
News items of interest:
- State Dept. contracting officer under investigation for steering $52M of contracts to her secret husband. See full article from Daily Caller at http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/19/state-dept-contract-officer-steers-52-million-to-secret-husband-daughter/.
- MSPB upholds removal of DHS Senior Special Agent, after he failed to establish whistleblower affirmative defense for (1) unauthorized queries of individuals on an official government computer database; (2) unauthorized disclosure; (3) misuse of position; and (4) lack of candor. See MSPB opinion at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=618847&version=620720&application=ACROBAT.
- MSPB dismissal of OSC case to remove an employee for violation of the Hatch Act is upheld. OSC failed to comply with Board rules to state "with particularity any alleged violations of law or regulation, along with the supporting facts." However, OSC may bring a new complaint. See MSPB opinion at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=621454&version=623336&application=ACROBAT
July 15, 2011
Soliciting Gifts from Outside Sources
The following pithy notice from an agency ethics office to the workforce struck us as being possibly useful to other agencies as well. We have edited it to remove agency-specific information:
Subject: Reminder On Rules Regarding Solicitation of Gifts from Outside Sources
One of the regular topics of instruction in your annual ethics training is the prohibition on receiving gifts as a result of your status as a federal employee. Gifts include any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. The reason for this rule is to avoid any actions violating the law and ethical standards of public trust or creating the appearance of private gain.
There are limited exceptions when a gift may be accepted, guidance for which is found at the agency's ethics website or by contacting GC.
This notice is a reminder of the specific prohibitions on the solicitation of gifts. Employees shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit a gift or other item of monetary value from a prohibited source; or solicit a gift because of an employee's official position. There are no exceptions to this rule.
A prohibited source includes any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by this agency. This includes, for example, our implementing partners, or other think tanks or entities we interact with in our official positions.
It would also be a violation to solicit a gift based upon your status as an employee of this agency. For instance, soliciting complimentary or "comped" tickets for a dinner or reception hosted by an outside organization would be improper. This also applies even if the goal is to ensure or increase agency participation. The substance or merit of the activity is not a consideration.
Where improper gift solicitation occurs, any solicited gifts must be returned to the donor or the recipient must pay the fair market value. Disciplinary action against the employee making the solicitation may be warranted.
Once again, if you have any questions, please seek guidance at the above web sites or by contacting GC for advice.
July 07, 2011
IG investigation into Defense Education Agency Director
The Inspector General for the Department of Defense substantiated multiple charges against the DoD Education Agency's former Director, including violations of the Joint Ethics Regulation and standards of conduct. See Federal Times article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20110630/DEPARTMENTS01/106300306/1049/PERSONNEL and IG redacted report at: http://www.dodig.mil/fo/Foia/PDFs/MilesROIforreleaseRedacted.pdf.
June 23, 2011
Former Army Contracting Officials Charged with ... Filing False Ethics Forms
A Justice press release reports that a former Army contracting official and his spouse were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the US, filing false tax statements, and filing false statements on their Government ethics financial disclosure documents. See full press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/June/11-tax-821.html.
May 24, 2011
Palin Author Investigated Over Propriety of Using E-mails
Frank Bailey, a former aide to Sarah Palin, released a tell-all book this week, chronicling his time working for the former Governor from 2006-2008. His book is largely based on emails he sent and received during that time. As a result, the Alaska attorney general's office is looking into Bailey's use of the emails, citing the ethics regulation that bars former public officials from using information acquired during their work for personal gain if the information hasn't been publicly disseminated. While Bailey's attorney maintains Bailey took great care to ensure compliance with all legal requirements, the issue serves as a reminder to all former public officials to check with their ethics office when planning to embark on a project that involves using information garnered from time in public service.
May 10, 2011
Former US Marshal Service employee pleads guilty
Sno H. Rush, formerly an employee of the U.S. Marshall Servie, plead guilty to theft of $104,000 in government funds, and was sentenced to 21 months in prison and 3 years supervised probation. The money was appropriated by misuse of her position and government credit card and used to offset her personal credit card debt. See US DOJ press release at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/May/11-crm-588.html.
May 09, 2011
OGE on YouTube
OGE has training videos at YouTube:
- Criminal conflict of interest statute (18 U.S.C. 208)
- Impartiality (5 C.F.R. 2635,Subpart E)
- Gifts from Outside Sources (5 C.F.R.2635, Subpart B)
January 31, 2011
FBI Office of Professional Responsibility report on Agents behavior
CNN reports on the ethical and inappropriate conduct of FBI employees. From documents obtained from the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, it appears that only 325-350 out of 34,300 FBI employees are disciplined each year, which bodes pretty well for their ethical conduct of the agency. But it also shows some serious lack of judgment and conduct unbecoming a Federal employee. See report at http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/01/27/siu.fbi.internal.documents/index.html.
See related articles:
- FBI OPR document at http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/01/27/fbi.documents.siu.pdf
- TMP Media report at http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/fbi_agent_threatened_to_release_sex_tape_with_reporter.php?ref=fpb#.
January 25, 2011
"Cycle of Sin" brings down senior Airman
Airman pleads guilty to multiple charges including misuse of position, and fights 13 others including misuse of government communication systems. See Dayton Daily News article at http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/wright-patterson-airman-pleads-guilty-to-13-air-force-charges-1062915.html?printArticle=y
December 17, 2010
Former Bureau of Prisons employee sentenced
A former Bureau of Prisons employee was sentenced to 27 months in prison and then 3 years supervised release, plus payment of $5,000, and forfeiture of $25,000, as well as $1,900 in special monetary assessments. The charges included conflict of interest. See full DOJ press release at: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/press/2010/2010_12_15c.pdf
December 11, 2010
Interior IG Report Cites Irregularities in Shell Bids
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The federal agency that controls oil and natural-gas production on U.S.-owned land "appeared to give preferential treatment" to Royal Dutch Shell PLC when the company pursued drilling leases on public land during 2005 and 2006, the acting inspector general of the Interior Department said in a report Friday.
Investigators said they found no evidence that Shell broke the law, and "no conclusive evidence" that then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton—who accepted a job with Shell several months after leaving her government post—broke federal conflict-of-interest laws. ...
The Interior Department's inspector general's office had referred the matter to the Justice Department, which declined criminal prosecution. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. An Interior Department spokeswoman said the department was reviewing the report. Ms. Norton didn't respond to a request for comment.One Interior ethics official wrote Ms. Norton in an e-mail that "the permanent ban might not apply based on your description of how you were involved in this issue while Secretary," according to the report. The ethics official also asked Norton follow-up questions, but Norton "never responded," the report said. ...
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics concluded that Norton had "played a significant role" in the oil-shale program while secretary and said that her "participation in the program should subject her to the lifetime ban on communicating with the federal government regarding the program," the report said. ...
November 13, 2010
OGE 2009 Prosecution Survey
The Office of Government Ethics issued DAEOgram DO-10-017 on November 9, 2010 announcing the publication of the 2009 Conflict of Interest Prosecution Survey. The survey contains summaries of cases involving conflict of interest violations. The Department of Justice prosecuted the cases. See http://www.usoge.gov/ethics_guidance/daeograms/dgr_files/2010/do10017.pdf
Posted by Account Deleted in Inspectors General, Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Financial Disclosure, Issues: Gifts, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Misuse of Position, Issues: Outside Activities, Issues: Post Employment, OGE | Permalink
August 25, 2010
Ethics In the News
Two news articles of interest:
- FBI press release on may indicted for several crimes including unauthorized use of military agency seals to fake official documents. See full release at http://memphis.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel10/me081910.htm
- Former NASA official pleads guilty to steers $600K contract to his consulting client, while serving as a Special Government Employee. See full article at http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=45971&dcn=e_gvet
July 26, 2010
MSPB upholds removal for misuse of position etc.
Appellant's appeal of removal from Federal service was denied and MSPB found penalty of removal reasonable. Of particular interest is the fact that the employee was initially charged with (1) willful forging or falsifying official govt records, (2) misuse of position & (3) failure ot accurately report information his OGE Form 450.Management did not pursue the 450 charge which Appellant claimed he could not be held responsible for since he was not aware he had to report outside income. MSPB find a nexus between management’s loss in confidence in his integrity and thus ability to perform the duties of his position. See http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=515923&version=517376&application=ACROBAT
May 25, 2010
Two suspended for aiding & abetting prohibited personnel practice
Two Coast Guard human resources specialists were suspended for aiding and abetting in an officer commit a prohibited personnel practice, in the form of creating a job description that only one person could meet (giving preferential advantage and misusing of their positions).
See Office of Special Counsel press release at http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2010/pr10_13.pdf.
January 12, 2010
MSPB case on misuse of position & violation of the Standards of Conduct
MSPB case upheld Administrative Judge decision which denied appellant corrective action for alleged Whistleblower Protection, because agency established by clear and convincing evidence that it would have reassigned her regardless of the disclosure.
More specifically, the Inspector General found that: (1) The appellant used her public office for the gain of a private business, Checkers, Inc.; and (2) the appellant violated the Standards of Ethical Conduct by maintaining a close personal friendship with Ms. Dale Spettigue, a principal of Truckers Express, Inc. (TEI), a carrier over which the appellant was exercising the agency’s regulatory authority.
January 10, 2010
Former AAFES Official Took BribesHere is the lead of a recent DOJ press release press release:
A former Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) official was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ga., to three years in prison for his role in a bribery conspiracy involving a multi-million dollar telecommunications contract, and for not reporting the bribes he accepted on his income tax returns.
December 18, 2009
Federal Judge Impeachment Hearing
Witnesses in the congressional impeachment case against U.S. District Court Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. paint a jarring portrait of the former Louisiana state judge who was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
December 14, 2009
Multiple Employees Convicted for Accessing Passport FilesA Department of Justice press release reports on the conviction of one State Department employee for illegally accessing passport files, and briefly describes the situations of seven others convicted previously.
December 07, 2009
Honest Services FraudThe most recent edition of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Legal Division's newsletter discusses U.S. v. Inzunza (copy of decision via the new Google Scholar's legal research feature):
Private gain is not an "implied" or "necessary" element of honest services fraud. The intent to defraud does not depend on the intent to gain, but rather the intent to deprive.
The 10th Circuit agrees (cite omitted).
The 3rd Circuit agrees because requiring private gain would merely substitute one ambiguous standard for another (cite omitted).
The 5th Circuit agrees because it has adopted a state-law-violation requirement instead (cite omitted).
The 7th Circuit disagrees, requiring proof of private gain (cite omitted).
November 14, 2009
EPA Complains About Employees' YouTube Video
A few days after an op-ed by the couple was published in the Washington Post, a directive to the couple was sent by the EPA, instructing them to remove the the video from YouTube and edit it to be "compliant with 5 CFR § 2635.807(b)" and that failure to do so "could lead to disciplinary action."
William Bransford, partner with Shaw, Bransford & Roth, tells FederalNewsRadio ...
I think there's a difference between just telling somebody "well I work at EPA" which is really kind of a matter of public record, versus "I work at EPA and because of my position and what I do, I believe this is a good idea," and you're speaking for yourself personally and not necessarily as a member of the EPA.
The real question, said Bransford, is whether the two used their government position to push a personal issue or not. "Just mentioning that you work there," said Bransford, "I'm not sure that it rises to that level, but obviously somebody in their General Counsel's office thinks to the contrary."
August 21, 2009
IG Report on VA official misuse of position
A recent Veterans Administration IG report sustained charges of misuse of position for personal gain against a VA Deputy Assistant Secretary of IT in addition to abuse of authority and prohibited personnel paractices. See redacted report at http://www.va.gov/oig/51/fy2009rpts/VAOIG-09-01123-195.pdf
April 03, 2009
Dangers of Endorsing Product
A post at the excellent Project for Government Oversight blog reports on allegations that "a video in which 'Air Force pilots rhapsodize about the fastest, stealthiest, most advanced dogfighter ever built' " could be a violation of 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702, "Use of public office for private gain":
An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.
Edited April 10 to fix typo.
December 07, 2008
Dangers of Abuse of Position
The Washington Post reports on an unusual event that shows one reason for emphasizing high ethical standards for federal employees: Many civil service workers are in sensitive positions with the potential to injure vulnerable people. In this particular case, a FEMA employee used information from disaster assistance applications for identity theft. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton expressed the community's outrage over such "lowdown" conduct in imposing a sentence of 5 years and 4 months:
"What you did, which is really repulsive, is rather than trying to help these people, you hurt them more. When you see someone on the ground, you don't step on them and hurt them more."