GSA Expo 2009 Ethics: Know the Rules of the Road • Nicole Stein • Desk Officer/Office of Government Ethics
RULE # 1 WHEN IN DOUBT, CONTACT YOUR ETHICS OFFICE
Rule #2 STEER CLEAR OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
18 U.S.C. § 208 Prohibits Personal and substantial involvement: • in any particular matter • in which employee or any person whose interests are imputed to him • has a financial interest • if the particular matter will have a direct and predictable effect on that interest
Purpose To prevent personal interests from affecting official actions
Scenario #1 Bill was the chief of Plans, Requirements, and Acquisitions for a Federal agency. He was in charge of the procurement of data processing equipment for a regional division of his agency. Bill was also engaged in off-duty employment. He was a partner in an information technology company, GeoKenn Technology.
Particular Matter Includes: • Matters involving specific parties (contracts, grants, litigation, etc.) • Matters of general applicability (regulations, policies, etc. that focus on the interests of a discrete and identifiable class of persons)
Personal Participation Directly, either individually or with others Through direct and active supervision of others
Substantial Participation Employee’s involvement is “of significance” to the matter… does not have to be determinative of the outcome it involves the “substantive merits” of a matter even if employee’s role may be minor in relation to the overall matter
Substantial Participation Requires more than: • official responsibility • knowledge • perfunctory involvement • administrative involvement
Financial Interest Potential for gain or loss as a result of governmental action
Imputed Financial Interests • Spouse • Minor child • General partner • Organization, when employee is an officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee • Person or organization, when employee is negotiating or has an arrangement for prospective employment
Why File? Help employees avoid conflicts Protect the agency’s operations and reputation Promote public trust in Government
Reviewer’s Role Examine the disclosed interests in light of the filer’s duties and determine whether there are any actual or potential conflicts
Rule # 3 MAINTAIN IMPARTIALITY
Are you working on a particular matter involving specific parties that is likely to have an effect on the financial interest of your householdOR is a person whom you have a “covered relationship” involved in a Government matter, either as a party or a representative to the matter?
IF SO, ask yourself….Would a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts question your impartiality if you participated in the matter?If the answer is YES = STOP WORKING ON THE MATTER
Covered Relationship Business, contractual or other financial relationship
Covered Relationship Member of household Close relative
Covered Relationship Person whom the employee’s spouse, parent, or dependent child serves or seeks to serve as an: Officer Director Trustee General Partner Agent Attorney Consultant Contractor Employee
Covered Relationship Officer Director Trustee General Partner Agent Attorney Consultant Contractor Employee Person the employee served within the last year as an:
Covered Relationship An organization where an employee is an active participant
Rule #4 KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE THE GIFT RULES
Gifts from “prohibited sources” or given because of official position generally may not be accepted Contractors AND Contractor personnel are prohibited sources May accept if excluded from definition of gift (5 C.F.R. § 2635.203(b)) May accept if exception applies (5 C.F.R. § 2635.204)
Exclusions • Modest food items and light beverage • Greeting cards, plaques, trophies • Favorable rates and commercial discounts • Market Value Paid Exceptions • $20/$50 rule • Personal relationships • Outside business or employment relationship
Scenario #2 Any employee of Agency “X” has been given a ticket to the local production of Macbeth by an agency contractor. The face value of the ticket is $18.00. May she accept the gift?
Rule #5 BEWARE OF HOW YOUR USE YOUR OFFICIAL TITLE
Use of Official Title EXCEPTION: • You may use your official title (and official stationery) only in response to a request for a reference or recommendation for someone: • You have dealt with in Federal employment; or • You are recommending for Federal employment.
Contractor Support Letters Not permitted: Endorsement for a contractor to use as part of public relations or advertising information Permitted: Factual statements that the contractor’s work has satisfied the Government’s requirements
Rule #6 SLOW DOWN ON THE EXIT RAMP
Seeking Employment 18 U.S.C § 208 - Prohibits personal and substantial participation in a particular matter in which a person with whom you are negotiating for employment or have an arrangement for future employment has a financial interest. 5 C.F.R § 2635.604 - Prohibits personal and substantial participation in a particular matter that will have an effect on the financial interests of a prospective employer with whom you are seeking employment.
You are seeking employment when: • You send a resume or contact someone about possible employment • A potential employer has contacted you about possible employment and you do not immediately and unequivocally reject • You are engaged in actual negotiations for employment
SeekingEmployment Ends After two months have elapsed since you sent an unsolicited resume and the there’s been no expression of interest from the prospective employer; or Either side rejects the possibility of employment and all discussions of possible employment have ended.
Rule #7 KEEP AN EYE ON THE REAR VIEW MIRROR
Purpose Prevent “switching sides” Allow “cooling off”
§ 207 Bans Permanent, two years, or one year Length of ban based on type of matter, employee’s involvement, and position with the Government
Post-Employment Restrictions Lifetime Ban 18 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) – Prohibits you from representing anyone before the government on a particular matter involving specific parties in which you participated personally and substantially. Two-Year Ban 18 U.S.C. § 207(a)(2) – Prohibits you for two years from representing anyone before the government on a particular matter involving specific parties which was pending under your official responsibility during your last year of government service.
One-Year Ban for Senior Employees Applies to Executive Level officials and SES officials compensated above 86.5% of the annual rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule Prohibits you from representing anyone on any matters before your agency for one year18 U.S.C. § 207(c)
General Steps • Proposed post-employment activities • Employee classification • Possible prohibitions • Analysis of proposed activities • Exception or waiver
THANK YOU Nicole Stein Nicole.Stein@oge.gov (202) 482-9255