Fedweek

Outside employment was the most frequently mentioned topic. Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock.com

The most common ethics-related questions from federal employees involve outside employment/activities, financial disclosure reporting and gift acceptance, the Office of Government Ethics has said, citing the value of agencies providing guidance on such matters for “resolving potential conflicts before they happen.”

Outside employment was the most frequently mentioned topic by 40 of the 139 agency components polled for OGE’s annual report on ethics programs, while another 59 put it in second or third place.

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Financial disclosure reporting was the top area of questions from employees at 41 and the second or third most common topic in another 50, while gift acceptance was tops at 20 agencies and in second or third in another 44.

Under ethics laws, employees must recuse from government matters that affect the financial interest of someone with whom they are seeking employment; may not participate in an official capacity in a particular matter in which the employee has a financial interest; and may not solicit or accept gifts because of their official position or from certain sources.

Other topics on which employees requested guidance included conflicting financial interests, impartiality in performing official duties, misuse of position and post-government employment.

The report also showed that:

* Thirty-two agencies reported taking 633 disciplinary actions based wholly or in part upon violations of the standards of conduct (multiple actions could be taken against one individual). The largest share of disciplinary actions (46%) involved violations of the regulation regarding misuse of position.

* Eleven agencies reported taking 18 disciplinary actions based wholly or in part upon violations of criminal or civil statutes (multiple actions could be taken against one individual). Two-thirds of those related to restrictions against employees taking official action that can affect a personal financial interest.

* Twenty-five agencies reported a total of 55 referrals to the Department of Justice concerning potential violations of the criminal conflict of interest statutes.

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