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As the campaign season heats up, inquiries about political activities by civilian and military personnel increase, like speeches in New Hampshire and handshakes in Iowa. The DoD guidance on civilian personnel participation in campaigning and election-related activities has recently been updated. The Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum, which should have been distributed to all civilian employees, is available on our website at http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/defense_ethics/dod_oge/DepSecDef_Memo_14_Nov_07.pdf (link inactive). Guidance for uniformed service members continues to appear in DoDD 1344.10.
As many readers may be aware, there is a White House Counsel's memorandum to the Executive Branch, which urges "each department or agency by the end of 2007 to provide a briefing to its employees on the requirements of the Hatch Act," and the department's policies governing political activities by its employees. For the Department of Defense, providing appropriate personnel information about how to access the two documents referenced above should satisfy the request. For those interested in additional briefing material, there is a presentation available in the Political Activities Chapter of our Ethics Deskbook (including the course outline for background) or other agency materials on the Interagency Ethics Council site. There is also a 50 minute video available on the Office of Special Counsel website. Because it is not DoD-specific it may be misleading for certain DoD personnel. Additionally, because it is large and lengthy, we are not recommending the video for use by DoD personnel.
It is also the season for gift giving, gift receiving, holiday parties, and similar ethics woes. Keen ethics counselors issue guidance before the boss comes in with that really nice flat screen TV he picked up from his new favorite subordinate in the "White Elephant" gift exchange. Our ethics advice on the holiday season is in our posted guidance. Based on some practical feedback, note that we now think it is difficult to practically have truly "anonymous gift exchanges," as described in example 4. Therefore, you may want to restrict the value of such "random or exchanged" gifts to the authorized $10.00 or less if personnel receiving different pay levels are involved. We must have been overly full of holiday cheer in writing our "unlimited value" guidance. The Office of Government Ethics' holiday missive on gifts and fundraising is available as well.
The new Standards of Conduct Directive, DoDD 5500.07, is now posted on our website, as well as the DoD Issuances website. There are no substantive changes from the current one. It had to be re-issued to comply with new formatting and style requirements. We are using the term "DoD Agency," rather than "DoD Component," as the more accurate term where required, and it also creates the foundation for such wording changes in the JER. The Definitions Section of the JER identifies those DoD entities that are agencies and those that are components. Please contact our office if you have questions.
A former Department of Defense employee has pleaded guilty in federal court to a false statement charge for failing to disclose on his annual financial disclosure report cash payments made to his wife. Chang S. Yi, 40, admitted that he failed to disclose cash payments made to his wife on his annual financial disclosure report. Specifically, Yi admitted that he was formerly employed by the United States Army as a contracting officer for the U.S. Army Contract Command Korea. Yi's duties included overseeing the planning, bidding, and award process for numerous government contracts, and among the contracts Yi worked on was a contract to provide security guard services at a USA-CCK facility in Seoul. Yi maintained a personal relationship with an individual who was employed by the Korean company that bid on and won the contract. In July 2003, Yi admitted, his wife accepted at least $7,100 from the wife of that friend. The money was used to purchase airfare from Seoul to Bangkok, Thailand. Yi, his wife, the friend, and his wife later traveled to Bangkok together. When Yi filed his financial disclosure report covering this time period, he failed to disclose the money received from friend's wife. The charge of making false statements carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 7, 2008.
A former DoD SES employee failed to file the termination public financial disclosure report when he left the position. The filer received several reminders, but chose to ignore them and never filed the report. Unfortunately, the SES was unable to ignore the Department of Justice. After filing a cause of action, United States of America v. Yoemans, Civ. No. 07-643 (E.D. Va)., and after substantial negotiations, the filer agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, to pay the $200 late filing fee, and to file the financial disclosure report that should have been filed in the first place. Bottom line: Failure to file your financial disclosure report can be very costly (and ruin your holidays too!).
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this advisory is to disseminate relevant information and sources of general guidance, policy and law on Government Ethics issues to the Department of Defense ethics community. Advisories are not intended to be and should not be cited as authoritative guidance, DoD policy, or law.