March 27, 2014

Commanders fired in nuke missile cheating scandal

The Washington Post reports:

The Air Force fired nine mid-level nuclear commanders Thursday and will discipline dozens of junior officers at a nuclear missile base in response to an exam-cheating scandal that spanned a far longer period than originally reported. Air Force officials called the moves unprecedented in the history of the intercontinental ballistic missile force.

The Associated Press last year revealed a series of security and other problems in the nuclear force, including a failed safety and security inspection at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., where the cheating happened.

In a bid to correct root causes of the missile corps’ failings — including low morale and weak management — the Air Force also announced a series of new or expanded programs to improve leadership development, to modernize the three ICBM bases and to reinforce “core values” including integrity.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, the service’s top civilian official, had promised to hold officers at Malmstrom accountable once the cheating investigation was completed and the scope of the scandal was clear. None of the nine fired commanders was directly involved in the cheating, but each was determined to have failed in his or her leadership responsibilities.

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

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.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Travel, Miscellaneous | Permalink

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.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

December 16, 2013

Gallup Poll: Lobbyists rank last on ethics

Politico reports:  Congress can take heart that Americans still view one profession as having lower honesty and ethical standards than theirs, according to a new poll: lobbyists. Just 6 percent of Americans say lobbyists have high or very high honesty and ethical standards, making it last on a list of 22 professions surveyed about in a Gallup poll released Monday.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

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.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

September 11, 2013

Article on Ethics in the Sports World

Michelle Simms, Director of the Air Force Ethics Office, shares her article on ethics in the sports world.  The article may be found here http://afgeneralcounsel.dodlive.mil/2013/09/11/2436/

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Legal Ethics, Miscellaneous | Permalink

July 22, 2013

Receiving Notification of IEC Journal Updates

Several IEC members have recently mentioned that they would like to sign up to receive automatic IEC updates-- the following re-post should walk you through the process of signing up for notices:

 http://www.iecjournal.org/iec/2009/06/johnson-tips-on-receiving-iec-journal-updates-by-email.html

 It gives several alternatives to receiving updates, including RSS to email feeds.  If you are still having trouble, contact IEC at iecjournal123@yahoo.com

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

July 12, 2013

TGIF Fun Facts: Having a Bigger Desk Can Make You More Dishonest

A new study suggests that people who are able to spread out because they have a large desk or wide car seat, for example, are also more likely to cheat, steal money, or break traffic rules.

Now, of course, people with larger desks and bigger cars are also likely to have more power, and the question of whether power corrupts comes with its own slew of research and debate. But for the purposes of this study, the authors argue, having a larger space leads to expansive posture, which has a subtle but powerful effect on our psychology.

“Environments that expand the body can inadvertently lead us to feel more powerful, and these feelings of power can cause dishonest behavior,” the paper, “The Ergonomics of Dishonesty” (pdf) by a team of academics from US universities, concludes. In an experiment, subjects were told they would be paid $4 for their services but were given $8 seemingly accidentally. The researchers found that 78 percent of those who were told to hold an expansive pose—standing with hands on their hips, legs spread slightly—kept the extra money. Only 38 percent of participants who were told hold contractive positions, like crossing one’s legs and arms, did so. Other experiments found that those with bigger car seats in a racing game were more likely to break a game rule, and those with bigger desks were more likely to cheat on a test.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

June 18, 2013

Course Offered: U.S. and International Anti-Corruption Law Summer Program

The U.S. and International Anti-Corruption Law Summer Program is a intensive five-day program taught by prominent experts, including present and former U.S. and foreign government prosecutors, investigators for international organizations, law firm practitioners, and corporate counsel. It will take place from June 24-28, 2013 at the American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

In its inaugural year, the program is designed for government officials charged with integrity functions and for practitioners in the private and non-profit sectors as well as LLM and third year JD students. It features a special track on implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, including participation in the peer review mechanism and transnational law enforcement and legal assistance. Other courses explore U.S. anti-corruption laws and institutions, transnational bribery and private sector compliance, and how multilateral development banks identify, mitigate, and sanction corruption.

Faculty experts include Richard Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General, Drago Kos, former Chairman of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption and Mark Mendelsohn, former Deputy Chief, Fraud Section, US Department of Justice.  Coursework will be augmented by site visits and considerable interaction with key officials, a unique attribute of holding this program in Washington, DC.  The courses may be taken for a Certificate or for academic credit. Tuition is discounted for government officials and NGOs. You will find additional information and the Application Form for the U.S and International Anti-Corruption Law summer program at: www.wcl.american.edu/anti-corruption

Please feel free to contact Nancy Boswell with any questions at boswell@american.edu

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, Training (to Attend) | Permalink

April 23, 2013

Charles Rangel sues to overturn censure

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is suing House Speaker John Boehner and six other lawmakers to overturn his censure on ethics charges, arguing that members of the House Ethics Committee withheld evidence that could’ve cleared his name.

Besides Boehner, the lawsuit in federal court in Washington also names Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), then the House Ethics Committee Chairman. At the end of the Ethics Committee’s investigation, the House voted overwhelmingly to censure Rangel.

Rangel’s lawsuit aims to overturn that censure, according to USA Today, with the lawsuit claiming the ethics investigation involved “numerous, flagrant, knowing and intentional violations” of Rangel’s right to due process, including the committee withholding a memo written by former staffers arguing the investigation was tainted by misconduct.  Had Rangel known about the memo, the lawsuit says, he would’ve immediately moved to dismiss the investigation.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

April 05, 2013

OGE Issues Legal Advisory Regarding Ethics-Related Legislative Activity from the 112th Congress and Updated Compilation of Ethics Laws

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a Legal Advisory updating relevant legislative activity from the recently ended 112th Congress, including the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 and the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011. The Legal Advisory also discusses other ethics-related provisions of note and trends in legislative activities. For more information, please see Legal Advisory LA-13-03 dated April 4, 2013, http://www.oge.gov/OGE-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/

In addition, OGE has published a newly updated “Compilation of Federal Ethics Laws” that includes all provisions signed into law through January 13, 2013. The compilation includes not only the laws within the jurisdiction of the ethics program, but also related statutes of interest to the Executive Branch ethics programs, such as the Hatch Act. The Compilation may be found on OGE’s website at: http://www.oge.gov/Laws-and-Regulations/Statutes/Compilation-of-Federal-Ethics-Laws/

 

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Issues: Financial Disclosure, Miscellaneous | Permalink

December 31, 2012

Office of Congressional Ethics Needs Reauthorization to Continue

CNN reports:

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)  -- which gets its mandate and funding from Congress -- must be reauthorized by this Congress, which soon adjourns, or early on by the new Congress. What's more, at least four of the OCE's board members are approaching the end of their terms, and new members must be selected and appointed for the organization to continue with its work.

No investigations or reports can be done by the office until their board is in place.

The OCE was formed four years ago when then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others declared they wanted to "drain the swamp" of scandals and corruption in Washington.  Among the biggest scandals that prompted action was that of Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist, who admitted in 2006 to illegally showering gifts on officials in exchange for favors.

Ken Boehm, chairman of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center, commented that if the OCE is not reauthorized and new board members are not appointed, it would "(send) the message to the public that not only is the ethics system broken, but it doesn't even exist anymore."

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

May 01, 2012

New U.S. v. POGO decision

US District Court for DC issued its decision on the case about whether a Dept of Interior employee who received a $383,600 monetary award by a group that the employee had assisted in bringing a successful false claims action, had violated 18 USC 209. The case was previously vacated by the Circuit Court (United States v. POGO, 616 F.3d 544 (DC Cir. 2010)).  The District Court ruled against the employee, in summary judgment, and ordered him to repay the entire amount of the award (United States of America v. Project on Government Oversight, DDC CA No. 03-0096 (JDB)--March 21, 2012).

See FedSmith discussion http://www.fedsmith.com/article/3357/former-fed-who-breached-his-fiduciary.html

See DC Dist Court decision Download 86909812-US-v-POGO[1]

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

April 04, 2012

President signs STOCK Act

OGE reports:

"On April 4, 2012, the President signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) (S. 2038). The Act establishes new requirements for Executive Branch ethics programs, ethics officials, and the thousands of employees who currently file financial disclosure reports pursuant to the Ethics in Government Act. OGE fully supports the Act’s focus on improving transparency and promoting public confidence in government and is carefully analyzing the provisions of the new law. In consultation with DAEOs and other senior agency ethics officials, OGE will issue a series of Legal, Program, and Education Advisories to implement the Act’s provisions.

Questions from agency ethics officials should be directed to the OGE Team that supports your agency. Media and related inquiries should be directed to Vincent Salamone at (202) 482-9292."

See STOCK Act: Download STOCK Act

Posted by Account Deleted in Electronic Filing, Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Financial Disclosure, Issues: Post Employment, Issues: Seeking Employment, Miscellaneous, News, OGE | Permalink

Failure to Pay Taxes A Standards of Conduct Issue

The Washington Post reports

About 98,000 federal, postal and congressional employees owed $1.03 billion in unpaid taxes at the end of fiscal 2010, according to records provided by the Internal Revenue Service. The total number of delinquent employees dipped slightly from 2009, but the amount owed jumped by $32 million.

The figures are “totally unacceptable and disrespectful to hardworking American taxpayers,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). “If you’re on the federal payroll, the very least you can do is pay your taxes.” 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). (Image via CBS News) Chaffetz and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have authored bills that would force federal agencies, the U.S. Postal Service and congressional offices to fire employees who purposely avoid paying taxes.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

March 29, 2012

The True Cost of Conflict of Interest

The private-sector-focused Business Ethics Blog recently published an nteresting article about the real cost of conflicts of interests that has implications for the public sector.  In particular, the author questions whether contractors who give gifts are intentionally causing others to violate their conflict of interest duties and encouraging people to violate the Standards of Conduct. Food for thought.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Contractors in the Workplace, Miscellaneous | Permalink

March 27, 2012

Leaks at NLRB?

A National Labor Relations Board Office of Inspector General report alleges a key NLRB employee improperly leaked information. Talking Points Memo summarizes:

The IG report found that Flynn “knew, or should have know, that he had a duty to maintain the confidence of the information that he received in the performance of his official duties.” It also criticized him for a lack of candor about the messages after the IG probe began.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

March 26, 2012

Ethics Articles from Fraud Facts Newsletter

The Spring 2012 Edition of Fraud Facts, an Air Force publication, has a couple of articles about ethics:

Workplace Ethics in Transition provides study results showing that there are currently "historically low levels of current misconduct in the American workplace and record high levels of employee reporting.  The percentage of employees who witnessed misconduct at work fell to a new low of 45 percent. That compares to 49 percent in 2009 and is well down from the record high of 55 percent in 2007.  Those who reported the bad behavior they saw reached a record high of 65 percent, up from 63" Unfortunately, the article contends that "As the economy gets better – and companies and employees become more optimistic about their financial futures – it seems likely that misconduct will rise and reporting will drop, mirroring the growth in pressure and retaliation that have already taken place and conforming to historic patterns." The article also purports to link social networking in the workplace with more ethical problems.

Leading by Example: Implementing a Values-Based Ethics Program at DoD explains DoD efforts to focus on values, rather than rules, arguing: Regulations can’t address every situation an employee faces, so a set of guiding principles are needed to help address the circumstances when the rules aren’t clear. This is the fundamental argument for a values-based ethics program. Best-in-class values-based ethics programs have several distinct features. They are based on a set of core values that are not only communicated from the top down, but they are integrated into everyday decisions throughout the organization. Best-in-class programs also train all employees on ethical decision-making every year. They focus on building an ethical culture where employees are encouraged to raise concerns, and they are rewarded for upholding standards of integrity.

Issues of Fraud Facts, including the most current, are available through a link on the right side of an Air Force website:

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

March 11, 2012

Time for Office Pool Reminder?

Our 2008 and 2009 posts discussed ways to remind employees that gambling is a standards of conduct violation.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

March 06, 2012

Ethics related news here, there, & everywhere... Oh my!

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 15, 2012

Lobbyists sue Federal Govt over ban on Advisory Committees

Lobbyists who were serving or sought to serve, but were banned from federal advisory committees by the Obama administration, are suing the government to reverse the ban on their service on grounds that it violates the First Amendment. All plaintiffs were up or served on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which are jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

Read the full The Hill article at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/210439-lobbyists-sue-obama-after-being-booted-from-boards 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Special Gov. Employees, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Lobbyists sue Federal Govt over ban on Advisory Committees

Lobbyists who were serving or sought to serve, but were banned from federal advisory committees by the Obama administration, are suing the government to reverse the ban on their service on grounds that it violates the First Amendment. All plaintiffs were up or served on the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which are jointly managed by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

Read the full The Hill article at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/210439-lobbyists-sue-obama-after-being-booted-from-boards 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Advisory Committees, Issues: Special Gov. Employees, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 12, 2012

Who's to Blame for Ethics Debacles, Private Sector Fraud or Government Lapses?

A POGO post cites four examples of dubious ethics conduct that helped private industry (Interior MMS, FDA advisory committee re Yaz & Yasmin contraceptives, Boeing helicopters and SEC Bear Stearns controversy), and finds the common thread: In the end, it's all on the government.

In these examples, the private sector is benefitting, perhaps inappropriately. But can you blame them? While it’s no excuse for wrongdoing, let’s be honest: The business of business is to make money, but it’s the government’s business to protect the public’s interests.

In the four cases mentioned, the government’s failure to act contributes to a culture of impunity. ...

In these cases, industry might be doing something that is questionable and/or fleeces the taxpayer, but it’s the government’s failure to maintain its own integrity and robustly protect its own interests that enabled the wrongdoing. Holding those people accountable whose job it is to protect the public good is the only way to change this culture of impunity.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

February 07, 2012

The Right Way to Announce a DAEO Appointment

Ideally, an agency head's announcement of a DAEO should build them up, giving them credibility with the workforce that makes it easier for them to do their job. Here's a slightly redacted version of a recent announcement from the USAID Administrator that we believe demonstrates a good approach:

I am pleased to announce my designation of Jim Peters, the Assistant General Counsel for Ethics and Administration (GC/EA), as USAID’s Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO), pursuant to the requirements of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.  Jim has my complete confidence to carry out the functions of the Agency’s ethics program, including the collection and review of employee financial disclosure forms, managing the annual ethics training, and providing day-to-day guidance and counseling.  Jim has been performing many of these functions throughout his 25-year career in the U.S. Government, and within his 15-year tenure with the Agency.  He has been USAID’s Alternate DAEO for half of that time.
 
As we carry out our daily functions and work to implement USAID Forward, it is important that we keep sight of the ethical obligations that we owe to the American public and the ultimate beneficiaries of our efforts.  This means not only complete compliance with the ethics rules, but also a focus on doing the right thing.  Jim is a regular resource to my staff and me, and I encourage you to contact him or a member of his staff with any questions you may have.  ...
 
I have also named Bruce McPherson, Attorney-Advisor in GC/EA, as the Alternate DAEO.  Bruce has a background in banking and in legal practice at a prominent DC law firm, and in his nearly two years at USAID has built upon this to become an excellent resource as well.  For staff posted overseas, you may contact your Regional Legal Advisor (RLA), who also serves as a Deputy Ethics Officer.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

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

See full article at http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/02/momentum-builds-require-feds-disclose-stock-trades/41092/.

For details about the various STOCK Act versions, see http://insidertrading.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004520.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Issues: Misuse of Position, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

February 03, 2012

Interesting article on Congress' Insider Trading Bill

If you missed it, the Senate overwhelmingly (96-3) passed the bill that would impose insider training restrictions on lawmakers this week.  The House is expected to take it up next week.  Interestingly, attached conflicting amendments would further impose this on certain Executive Branch employees.  See Associated Press article at http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/03/house-ready-to-consider-insider-trading-ban/.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

January 11, 2012

New York Times Editorial on Ethics and the Supreme Court

The New York Times recently published an editorial regarding ethics and the Supreme Court.

Posted by IEC Team 3 in Miscellaneous | Permalink

November 17, 2011

The removal appeal of the employee implicated in US v. POGO is remanded

Consequences of United States v. Project on Government Oversight, 525 F.Supp.2d, 161, 164 (D.D.C. 2007).  The Dept. of Interior employee, Robert Berman received notice of his proposed removal for misuse of public office for personal gain.  The Federal Circuit suspended its review of the case pending the outcome of the DC Circuit case on whether he violated 18 USC 209 by accepting an award from POGO.  Since that case was remanded for a new jury verdict, so was the personnel removal case. 

See Berman v. Department of the Interior, C.A.F.C. No. 2010-3052 (nonprecedential) (Nov. 7, 2011) at http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/10-3052.pdf.

Read related article at: http://www.fedsmith.com/articles/articles_display.php?a=3183&p=1

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, MSPB, News | Permalink

"Financial Conflicts of Interest In and Out of Government" by Kathleen Clark

Several people have requested information related to Kathleen Clark's presentation at the September 2011 OGE Conference.  The article she wrote is published as "Financial Conflicts of Interest In and Out of Government" in the Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-02-03.  See http://law.wustl.edu/faculty_profiles/pages.aspx?id=223.

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Ethics related news items

Please see the following news items which are related to ethics:

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

November 15, 2011

Presidential Executive Order: PROMOTING EFFICIENT SPENDING

On Nov. 9, 2011, the President signed an executive order to promote efficient spending in the Executive Branch.  See EO at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/09/executive-order-promoting-efficient-spending.  The EO is part of the Campaign to Cut Waste, and coincided with the announcement of the 2011 SAVE Award finalist.  See WH press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/09/we-cant-wait-president-obama-sign-executive-order-cut-waste-and-promote-.

Within 45 days, agencies must develop plans to reduce combined costs in the following areas to 20 percent below Fiscal Year 2010 levels by Fiscal Year 2013.

  1. Reduce Spending on Travel and Conferences.
  2. Cut Duplicative and Unnecessary Employee Information Technology Devices
  3. End Unnecessary Printing and Put It Online
  4. Limit Motor Vehicles
  5. Stop Swag – or Government Promotional Handouts

Posted by Account Deleted in Fiscal Law, Issues: Misuse of Govt. Resources, Issues: Travel, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

November 04, 2011

Public-Private Partnership (P3) Presentation Materials

As promised, here are the relevant materials from the wonderful presentation on Public-Private Partnerships by  by USAID and State Department officials.

More to come. Or if you have P3 resources to share, please email them to us. 

Posted by Account Deleted in IEC Meetings, Miscellaneous | Permalink

October 12, 2011

Alleged Supreme Court Conflicts of Interest

The focus of this site is Executive Branch issues, but for awareness purposes, we pass along a link from an IEC member concerning allegations of conflicts of interest against a Supreme Court justice.  

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

September 23, 2011

Brainstorming Ethics Implications of Budget Cuts

An August OMB memo directed federal agencies to plan forr 2013 budgets that at least 5 percent below  2011 spending levels. The goal for 2013 budget is at least 10 percent below current appropriations.

What impact will this budget trend have on ethics programs? Coping with smaller budgets is one obvious impact. Will it also impact the types of ethics problems we see?

We welcome your thoughts on these issues, and have enabled the Comments feature on this post. We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 26, 2011

Management Guru Advises Relationship With Ethics Officer

A Frank McDonough post on advice for senior federal managers includes this tip: "schedule semi-annual meetings with the ethics officer." He also notes that the increasing number of laws and regulatory prohibitions creates snares for the unwary, and stresses the importance of avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

August 22, 2011

Honest Services Fraud Fix Advances

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) disagrees with the Wall Street Journal's criticism of a legislative proposal to remedy the effects of Skilling vs. United States on the honest services fraud statute, (18 U.S.C. § 1346):

The WSJ's concern about overcriminalization and prosecutorial abuse might have applied to prior versions of the honest services statute, but the current proposal borrows language from 18 U.S.C. 208, a well-established federal conflict-of-interest statute that already applies to the executive branch and, more importantly, has been upheld as constitutionally sound by the Supreme Court. Further, under the proposed statute no public officials may be prosecuted unless they knowingly conceal, cover up, or fail to disclose material information they are obliged to reveal by law or regulation. As crafted, this bill removes the risk that a public official will be convicted for unwitting conflicts of interest or mistakes.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary approved the “The Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act” (S. 401) late in July.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

August 19, 2011

Big Shots Who Are Humble Impress China

Thanks to an alert IEC member for alerting us to a NY Times article that shows how normal U.S. standards of behavior by public officials can make a big impression on those in other countries: 

A photograph taken last Friday of Gary F. Locke, the new United States ambassador to China, buying coffee with his 6-year-old daughter and carrying a black backpack at a Starbucks in the Seattle airport has gone viral on the Chinese Internet. The seemingly banal scene has bewildered and disarmed Chinese because they are used to seeing their own officials indulge in privileged lives often propped up by graft and bribery and lavish expense accounts. … 

Mr. Locke and his family were waiting to fly to Beijing when a Chinese-American businessman shot the photograph and posted it on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social networking site. It has been reposted over 40,000 times and has generated thousands of comments. State news organizations have weighed in with favorable articles about Mr. Locke, a former governor of Washington State and President Obama’s first Commerce secretary, who on Tuesday presented his credentials to President Hu Jintao of China to start his posting. …

“To most Chinese people, the scene was so unusual it almost defied belief,” Chen Weihua, an editor at China Daily, an official English-language newspaper, wrote in an article Wednesday.

The danger in focusing so intently on how we can improve our system has a downside, in that it can sometimes cause us to overlook the blessings that we already have.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

August 09, 2011

Resources Available to Ethics Officials Concerning Special Government Employees

We usually prefer to avoid reposting of information distributed via the OGE mailing list, but the note below on Special Government Employees seems so useful it is worth an exception: 

OGE issued an Advisory Opinion in 2000 that provides a summary of the ethical requirements applicable to Special Government Employees.  For a quick reference on the financial disclosure reporting requirements for SGEs go to DAEOgram (03-021).  If you receive question on post-employment restrictions, read DAEOgram (07-002) which clarifies the “cooling off” restrictions and conditions under which an agency need not count a day of service solely on the basis of certain activities by SGEs.

To increase awareness of applicable ethics standards and principles you may want  to send your SGES an online training module developed by OGE entitled, "Ethics Training for Special Government Employees." The course is an interactive web-based training module designed to be completed in about one hour and is intended for use by Special Government Employees (SGEs).  It contains a summary of the ethics laws and rules that apply to SGEs, and may be appropriate as part of either your initial or annual ethics training program.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

July 05, 2011

Save Money on Official Travel

Wayne Johnson was kind enough to provide a few tips that should be very valuable for those attending the upcoming OGE Conference in Orlando in September and for other government travel situations as well:

Some federal ethics workers travel infrequently and thus may not be aware that some states, such as Florida, exempt federal employees on Temporary Duty (TDY) orders from paying sales/hotel taxes on their hotel rooms.

Travelers on TDY using their government issued “travel card” (or personal credit card if not issued a travel card) to pay their hotel accommodations pay state sales tax even though the federal government will be reimbursing the traveler later UNLESS under the local state’s law there is a tax exemption. This is because the sale is made to the person, not the government, who is personally responsible for paying the “travel card” bill. States do not have to offer this exemption to government travelers nor are hotels required to make the traveler aware of this.

The traveler’s government travel card should not be confused with the GSA SMART CARD IMPACT CREDIT CARD. Holders of the IMPACT card, usually the office’s procurement official, never pay state sales taxes when using the IMPACT card as those charges are billed directly to the U.S. Government and are thus not subject to state sales taxes as a matter of Federal law.

General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) web page provides more information, including links to all 50 states and explanations of their tax policies. GSA also provides information about Florida in particular. Information on Florida law in particular. Copies of the Florida hotel tax exemption form are available at the following websites:

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of Wayne Johnson and are not those of the U.S. Government. They were prepared in his personal capacity and are not to be construed to imply that his agency or the U.S. Government sanctions or endorses what he has written.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in GAO, Miscellaneous | Permalink

June 27, 2011

Need to collect Contractor Business Ethics Compliance info?

The Federal Register published a joint notice of request for public comments regarding an extension to an existing OMB clearance requirement.   Public comments are particularly invited on: Whether this collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of functions of the FAR, and whether it will have practical utility; whether our estimate of the public burden of this collection of information is accurate, and based on valid assumptions and methodology; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways in which we can minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, through the use of appropriate technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.  Comments due Aug. 26, 2011.  See Fed.Reg. at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-06-27/pdf/2011-16058.pdf.

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Contractors in the Workplace, Miscellaneous, Procurement | Permalink

June 22, 2011

More ethics related news items

Government press releases on misconduct:

Other news articles:

Posted by Account Deleted in Hatch Act, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

June 12, 2011

Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)

Federal Advisory CommitteeAct question? Executive Order 12024 (1976) delegated the President's implementation responsibilities to the Administrator of GSA.  The FACA section of the GSA website has guidance.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

May 10, 2011

Interesting articles on Congressional Financial Disclosures

Amanda Becker authors an interesting article about Congressional financial disclosure requirements and penalties.  See full article at http://www.rollcall.com/issues/56_119/financial-disclosure-congress-205462-1.html.  She previously published another article on the same revision of the instruction manual from the House Ethics Committee, which avoided including same-sex spouse interests as a reportable information.  See http://www.rollcall.com/issues/56_117/financial-disclosure-same-sex-couples-205356-1.html?pos=adp.

For access to the new House Ethics Committee guidance, see: http://ethics.house.gov/Subjects/List.aspx?subid=6 

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Financial Disclosure, Miscellaneous | Permalink

April 29, 2011

GSA's new Federal Advisory Committee Website

A White House press release discusses the new GSA website dedicated to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The public will now be able to retrieve information about advisory committee membership, costs, meetings, and contact information. The user friendly site provides not only information about individual committee members but also information about the composition of specific committees. GSA’s new user friendly site also links directly to the websites of many of the individual federal advisory committees.

GSA’s effort to provide more information about federal advisory committees supports efforts to move FACA management and implementation to newer technologies. Electronic FACA, or eFACA, is the broader name given to the agency’s efforts to guide other agencies about the best use of technology to reduce the costs of advisory committee meetings and increase public access.

Thanks to Steve Epstein for the tip.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

April 26, 2011

S.Ct. to hear case on whether COI restrictions violate 1st Amendment Rights

A Nevada public official was centured by the state's ethics commission for voting on a provision which would have impact on his friend.  He is now appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court on the basis that this conflict of interest rule violates his freedom of speech.  Read the Washington Post full article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-confronts-whether-conflict-of-interest-laws-violate-officials-free-speech/2011/04/23/AF9hsTdE_story.html

Posted by Account Deleted in Issues: Conflicts of Interest, Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

April 25, 2011

Ethics in the News

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

April 22, 2011

A frightening trend in the reporting news

Have you noticed that the media has been emphasizing the Federal employment status of individuals being reported for various alleged crimes, even though its unrelated to the misconduct being reported?  It seems to be a new alarming trend, which inappropriately impugns their Federal agency's integrity.

Check out these articles for example:

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Tech Firm head pleads guilty in bribery scheme at the Navy

The head of a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) contractor, Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, plead guilty to bribing a public official.  According to court documents, from 1996 to 2011, the company paid at least $8 million to program managers to ensure that millions of dollars in additional funds were added to Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow's contracts and that its invoices were paid.  See article at http://www.theday.com/article/20110421/NWS09/304219391/-1/NWS.

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink

Newell: A New Approach to Ethics in Government?

Terry Newell, founder of Leadership for a Responsible Society, presents his views on ethics reform in a Huffington Post article entitled Needed: A New Approach to Ethics in Government.

Posted by IEC Team Leader in Miscellaneous | Permalink

April 15, 2011

Federal Employee Pleads Guilty to Failure to File Federal Income Tax Return

A federal employee recently pled guilty to one count of failure to file her 2008 income tax returns.  The facts however bear out a lot more--namely, failure to timely file most returns and willfully acting to stop her federal agency employer from withholding her Federal income tax, among other things.  The woman was apparently a member of the "tax protest" movement. See DOJ press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/April/11-tax-474.html.

Posted by Account Deleted in Miscellaneous, News | Permalink