NCI ETHICS OFFICE UPDATES
Office of Ethics to Welcome New Director
Effective October 7, 2012, the NCI Office of Ethics welcomes Nancy O’Hanlon as its Director and Deputy Ethics Counselor.Nancy was most recently the Director of the Ethics Office of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Nancy graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Jurisprudence Degree from the University of Texas School of Law. Nancy served as an Assistant General Counsel for the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1992 – 2006, where she served as the primary attorney for ethics and personnel law. NCI Staff can reach Nancy by calling the Office of Ethics at (301) 496-1148.
OGE 278-T Public Financial Disclosure Reports on Periodic Transactions
Who Must File
You must file a periodic transaction report if:
• you are in a position that requires you to file a public financial disclosure report (OGE 278), and
• you have a reportable transaction as discussed below.
You are not required to file a report if you have no reportable transactions.
What to Report
Report any purchase, sales, or exchange of stocks, bonds, commodity futures, and other securities if the amount of the transaction exceeds $1, 000; and the asset is owned by you, individually or jointly with another. You do not need to report: (1) mutual funds and other excepted investment funds; (2) certificates of deposit, savings or checking accounts, and money market accounts; (3) U.S. Treasury billed, notes, and bonds; (4) Thrift Savings Plan accounts; (5) real property; (6) transactions involving securities owned by your spouse or dependent child, provided you are not also an owner of the securities; and (7) transactions that are solely by and between you, your spouse or dependent child.
When to File
You are required to report a transaction within 30 days of learning of the transaction, or within 45 days of the date of the transaction, whichever is earlier. 278-T reports are generally due to the Ethics Office on the 15th of each month, starting on August 15, 2012. For the most part, filing the 278-T on the 15th of each month should meet the reporting deadlines. Extensions of the filing due date for good cause are available prior to the due date. Contact the Ethics Office if you need an extension.
For more information and the OGE Form 278-T visit: http://ethics.od.nih.gov/forms/OGE-278-T.pdf. If you have any questions, please contact our office.
Seeking and Negotiating for Employment -- Recusal Requirements
All federal employees who may be contemplating seeking employment in the private sector should be familiar with conflict of interest statutes and regulations. Generally, a federal employee cannot be involved in any official activities which may affect the financial interests of someone with whom s/he is seeking employment. The employee must submit a recusal to the ethics office if s/he is seeking employment with an organization that s/he has official duties with at NIH. For example, if the employee is working on a grant with the University of Maryland and is trying to leave NIH to work for the University of Maryland, a recusal from official duty matters with the University is needed while employed at NIH.
Seeking employment means making an unsolicited communication to any person or their representative regarding possible employment. This includes sending a resume targeted to a specific employer, or making a positive response to an unsolicited communication from any person or their representative regarding possible employment. Seeking employment includes negotiating also. Seeking employment does not include merely requesting a job application or sending resumes to an industry or a discrete class. An employee can be administratively disciplined for failing to recuse himself/herself from an official duty matter that would directly affect a future employer while seeking employment.
An employee is negotiating for employment when s/he is in discussion or communication with another person, mutually conducted with a goal of reaching an employment agreement. Negotiating for employment is not limited to discussions of specific terms and conditions of employment in a specific position. Once an employee begins negotiating for employment, s/he can be administratively disciplined and prosecuted for failing to recuse himself/herself from a particular matter.
Federal employees who file a Public Financial Disclosure Report (OGE 278) now have an additional requirement under the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act that was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year. OGE 278 Filers may not negotiate or enter into any agreement for future employment unless the filer submits a written notification to the ethics office. The notice must be submitted within three business days of starting the negotiation or agreement. The reporting requirement applies to employment negotiations or agreements for future employment that started on or after April 4, 2012.
Future employment is employment that begins after the termination of federal government employment. Employment that occurs in addition to NIH work (i.e., outside activities) is not covered by this provision. This reporting provision is required even if the potential job does not relate to the employee’s NIH duties. For example, if an OGE 278 filer leaves the government to work at Macy’s, that employee would need to notify the ethics office within three business days of starting the negotiation or agreement.
The Notification of Post-Employment Negotiation or Agreement and Recusal Statement form can be found at the following link. http://ethics.od.nih.gov/topics/STOCK/Job-Negotiation-Notice.pdf
If you have any questions about negotiating for employment or seeking employment, please contact the NCI Ethics Office.
The Hatch Act: Social Media, Partisanship and Federal Employees
Social media is playing an increasingly greater role in today’s political landscape. On November 6th, voters across the nation will head to the polls, and leading up to Election Day, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will serve as key campaign battlegrounds for many political candidates. If you are a federal employee with a Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or LinkedIn account, or participate in online blogging or other social media options, it is a good idea to become familiar with the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act, in part, describes what federal employees can and cannot do when it comes to participating in partisan political activities. In general, federal employees may participate in partisan political activities while off duty and away from their duty location. (See below for a list of common political activities addressed by the Hatch Act.)
Federal employees must remain mindful of their social media activities in relation to partisan political participation. What may seem like a harmless “like” of a Facebook friend’s posted political views may not be that harmless for a federal employee. If a federal employee has the name of his agency or agency logo displayed on his blog, Facebook or Twitter account page, he is in violation of the Hatch Act by clicking “like” or posting any message that supports a political party, partisan group, or partisan candidate.
The Hatch Act further prohibits a federal employee from posting any verbiage or information on an official agency Twitter or Facebook account that relates to the success or failure of a political party, candidate or political group, or advocates for or against a political party, candidate or political group.
According to the Office of Special Counsel, political activity complaints against federal employees relating to the use of email and social media increased dramatically during the last election cycle. The penalty for a Hatch Act violation can include removal from federal service.
Employees may participate in the following political activities during non-duty hours:
- Registering and voting
- Contributing money to candidates, parties, and political organizations
- Expressing opinions about candidates and issues in private or public
- Assisting in voter registration drives and serving as a registrar
- Participating at a voting place on Election Day
- Becoming an active member, or serving as an officer of a political party or organization
- Initiating, circulating, or signing nomination petitions
- Campaigning for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, and municipal ordinances
- Campaigning for or against candidates in partisan and non-partisan elections
- Running as a candidate for public office in non-partisan elections
- Distributing and displaying campaign literature, badges, buttons, stickers, signs, and other materials during non-duty hours.
NOTE: Political bumper stickers may be displayed on personal vehicles that are parked at the duty location or used as incidental or occasional transportation for official purposes, such as driving to a meeting or a training course. However, political bumper stickers must be covered when the private vehicle is: (1) used for official business on a recurrent basis; or (2) clearly identified as being on official business.
Employees may not engage in the following partisan political activities during duty or non-duty hours:
- Use their official title in support of or against a political party, candidate or political group
- Coerce the political activities of subordinates or other employees
- Wear a partisan political button or display a partisan sticker or poster while on government property or while engaged in official duty
- Run for public office in a partisan election
- Solicit, accept or receive political contributions
- Sign campaign letters
- Host a political fundraiser at home
- Use personal IT equipment or accounts to send a partisan political message, or add partisan content to a political website or blog while on duty or on government premises
- Use government issued IT equipment or accounts to send a partisan political message, or add partisan content to a political website or blog at any time or from any location
NOTE: PHSCC, ALJs, and Career SES are further restricted in their participation in partisan political activities and should consult the Office of Special Counsel’s website at www.osc.gov for more information on compliance with the Hatch Act.
The NIH Ethics Officewebsite contains detailed information about permitted political activities and references applicable statutes, regulations and amendments of the Hatch Act. The Office of Special Counsel website also provides guidance on Hatch Act restrictions at www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm.
The Annual Ethics Training will be available for completion in November 2012.
IN THE NEWS
Hatch Act Violations in the News
The Hatch Act restricts the political activities of federal employees. Two federal employees in separate actions were recently suspended without pay for violating the Hatch Act. One of the employees, from the Social Security Administration, will serve a 180-day suspension for using work time to organize volunteer activities for a gubernatorial campaign and hosting a fundraiser for a different partisan political candidate. The other employee, from the General Services Administration, will be suspended for 30 days, for among other violations, using the government email system to send an email related to a Presidential campaign. See the press release from The Office of Special Counsel http://www.osc.gov/documents/press/2012/pr12_15ha.pdf.
More recently, officials at the Office of Special Counsel have launched an investigation under the Hatch Act into remarks made by senior Federal Aviation Administration managers who allegedly told subordinates that Republican victories in November’s election would lead to budget cuts and furloughs for FAA employees but that Democratic victories would not affect agency jobs.
STOCK Act Internet Posting Deadline
The original posting deadline for public financial disclosure forms (OGE-278) to be made publicly available on the internet was August 31, 2012. Under a law recently passed, the posting deadline was extended until September 30, 2012. Posting reports was further extended until October 31, 2012, due to a temporary injunction issued by the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland Southern. The extension only applies to posting OGE 278 forms and periodic transaction reports (OGE Form 278T). The extension does not affect any other requirements of the STOCK Act, including the filing of periodic transaction reports, which became effective on July 3, 2012.
On September 22, 2012, the Senate passed a bill which extends the posting date until December 8, 2012, except for certain high-level filers. The bill goes to the House next for consideration.
The Ethics Office will keep you informed as new information is made available.