New ethics rules apply to all employees in executive branch

Federal workers

January 06, 1993|By Ellen J. Silberman | Ellen J. Silberman,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- New ethics rules covering every federa employee in the executive branch go into effect on Feb. 3. The rules, finalized last August, will replace the regulations that currently govern ethics in individual departments. The new rules spell out what gifts executive branch employees can and cannot accept. They tell employees how to handle financial conflicts of interest and how to avoid other apparent conflicts.

They prohibit employees from using their government office for personal gain. They also lay out rules for extra-governmental employment and other outside activities. Many of the rules require judgment calls on a case-by-case basis but the rules for accepting gifts -- from inside and outside the government -- are explicit.

* An executive branch employee cannot accept any gift worth more than $20 from anyone doing business with or seeking a decision from his federal agency.

* She can accept small gifts -- up to $50 a year from a single source. And she can accept all gifts from family and personal friends.

* He can take free tickets to conferences and receptions.

* She can take free food and entertainment while on duty in foreign countries.

* He cannot give his boss a gift or ask his boss for one.

* She cannot take a gift from a lower-paid government employee, unless the two are friends.

* Employees can exchange $10 gifts, such as food or drink, for birthdays and holidays.

* Employees can give larger gifts on special occasions, such as marriages and retirements.

ABOUT NEW BOSSES -- Remain flexible. That's the advice the Senior Executives Association is giving its members in a handbook on how career executives can make the transition to the new administration as painless as possible.

Career SEA members get a 120-day "get acquainted" period at the beginning of the new administration. During the period, career executives cannot be reassigned against their will. (In most circumstances they also can't be fired.) Use the time wisely, advises the SEA.

"New political appointees need and should get prompt and effective professional support. It is the responsibility of the career executive to extend professional support and develop a cooperative working relationship," says the 28-page booklet, "Transition to a New Administration: A Guide to the Rights and Responsibilities of Senior Executives."

Here a few tips for getting along with the new boss:

* The political appointee may not know much about the agency he's heading. Give the boss a hand by introducing him to the agency staff and resources and generally "serving as an 'institutional memory.' "

* Let her know what government rules do and don't allow. "Point out the possible ethical or legal problems" that come with implementing new policies but don't use these problems as "an excuse to erect a roadblock to change." Try to come up with a legal way to do what the boss wants.

* Brief him on your programs. Let him know the strengths and weaknesses. Include a list of major program issues.

* Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the new boss' background and the campaign promises that affect your area. Then, develop a list of program objectives that will help President Clinton keep his promises.

* Get to know the boss. Meet with her, listen to her ideas and get to know her management style and follow it. It is more important to "encourage the development of some trust and confidence in the working relationship than that it reflect your own ideas of 'good management.' "

The booklet, which also offers tips to incoming political appointees on how to work with career civil servants, is free to SEA members, $5 for non-members. Call 927-7000 or write SEA, P.O. Box 7610, Ben Franklin Station, Washington 20044, for copies.

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