Advisory 12-01 January 6, 2012

  1. Pay Freeze means No New Thresholds.

    The pay freeze continues and as such the 2012 statutory thresholds remain unchanged:

    • Statutory threshold to determine who files Public Financial Disclosure Reports remains $119,553.60 (120% of the minimum rate of basic pay for a General Schedule 15).
    • Outside earned income restrictions for certain covered noncareer employees is $26,955.00 (15% of the annual rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule).
    • Statutory threshold to determine which employees are subject to the post-employment conflict of interest restrictions of 18 U.S.C. § 207(c)(1) ("senior" employees) remains $155,440.50 (86.5% of a level II of the Executive Schedule).

    See OGE Legal Advisory 11-10. Sample post-government employment restriction handouts reflecting the current pay thresholds are available under our SOCO Handouts page.

  2. File Those Training Plans.

    Remember that all DAEOs should have their Annual Training Plan on file by the end of the calendar year for the next year's training cycle. This requirement is found in 5 CFR 2638.706 and JER 11-302. A sample can be found on the SOCO website here.

    Please note: The training plans do not have to be forwarded to SOCO.

  3. Reminders of Upcoming Important Ethics Dates.

    OGE provides a handy list of important dates, "2012 Schedule of Important Ethics Dates."

    1. OGE Ethics Pledge Assessment: Annually, OGE assesses Ethics Pledge compliance of political appointees. OGE recently forwarded the assessment to Federal agencies and departments and expects completion by January 31, 2012. Please refer to:

    2. OGE 2012 Agency Ethics Program Questionnaire is due to OGE no later than February 1.

    3. Financial Disclosure Season: January 1, marks the beginning of both the Public and Confidential Financial Disclosure reporting periods. Remember:

      • OGE Forms 450 are due Wednesday, February 15, 2012. Filers should be using the December 2011 version found on the SOCO Forms Index. Remember also, the OGE Optional Form 450-A cannot be used in 2012. See 5 C.F.R. § 2634. 905(b)(5).
      • OGE Forms 278 are due Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Filers should be using the December 2011 version. The latest version is available on the SOCO Forms Index. (Forms are available with and without supervisory certification.)
      • Extensions: Requirements & Best Practices - All requests for and approvals of extensions of the filing deadline must be in writing, submitted prior to expiration of the deadline, and be placed with the individual's file. A notation of any filing extension must also be annotated on the report. See 5 C.F.R. § 2634.201(f) & 2634.903(d); JER 7-203 & 303.
  4. 2012 Annual Post-Employment Certification.

    The 2012 Annual Post-Employment Certification is now available on the SOCO web site under the Ethics Resource Library, Forms.

  5. Refresher: Ethics Solicitation Restrictions.

    The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch contain two solicitation restrictions.

    1. Gifts. The first solicitation restriction prohibits Federal personnel from accepting a gift given because of their official position and soliciting or coercing the offering of a gift from prohibited sources. 5 C.F.R. § 2635.202. In addition to the restriction on soliciting a prohibited source, this regulation also prohibits acceptance of the gift if it is offered because of the employee's official position. "A gift is solicited or accepted because of the employee's official position if it... would not have been solicited, offered, or given had the employee not held the status, authority or duties associated with his Federal position." 5 C.F.R. § 2635.203(e).

      Even where a gift meets an exception to the general prohibition on acceptance of gifts, solicitation of the gift is never permitted and would make acceptance improper. Thus, while Federal personnel could accept free product samples if offered, provided the samples are under $20 in value (thereby meeting the de minimus gift exception), they could not accept a solicited free sample.

    2. Charitable Fundraising. The second solicitation restriction limits Federal employees' official fundraising (meaning, the raising of funds for a nonprofit organization, other than a political organization through solicitation of funds or sale of items, or participation in the conduct of an event) to participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (5 C.F.R., Part 950--see SOCO Advisory 11-04) or where otherwise authorized by law. 5 C.F.R. § 2535.808(b). The fact that an employee does not personally benefit from the donation or that it benefits a worthy charitable cause is irrelevant.

      Federal personnel may, however, engage in charitable fundraising in their personal capacities so long as they (1) do not solicit from a subordinate or a prohibited source (i.e., defense contractor) or (2) do not use or permit the use of their official title, position or any authority associated with their public office to further the fundraising effort (e.g., fundraise in uniform).

    NOTE: There are other regulations that prohibit solicitations, most notably, the General Services Administration regulations that prohibit solicitation of alms on Federal property, and the Financial Management Regulation that prohibits solicitations of gifts to the Department (e.g., it is improper for DoD employees to solicit funds from defense contractors for an annual awards banquet for its personnel).


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.