NTEU has filed comments with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) in response to its Federal Register notice proposing changes to the ethical rules that govern the solicitation and acceptance of gifts from outside sources by employees of the executive branch.
By and large, the changes have few practical consequences for employees; they incorporate and clarify existing interpretations of the rules. Specifically, NTEU notes with approval OGE’s proposed expansion of the gift exceptions to allow employees to accept unsolicited gifts of books, periodicals, and other written materials.
NTEU determined, however, that two of the proposed changes warrant comment:
- One of the proposed changes would require an employee to obtain written authorization from an agency ethics official in all cases before accepting free attendance to a widely attended gathering. NTEU cautioned OGE that, by imposing on employees the added burden of requesting and waiting for written authorization, this proposed rule could unnecessarily discourage employees from attending events that benefit employees and their agency employers alike.
- NTEU also questioned the broad application of OGE’s proposed amendment to the rule governing disposal of impermissible gifts. In the proposed rule, OGE suggests that if an employee receives, for example, a T-shirt that constitutes an impermissible gift, the employee must return the shirt to the donor, pay the donor the shirt’s fair market value, or destroy the shirt by throwing it in the trash. NTEU suggested to OGE that allowing the employee to donate the shirt to a charity that would give it to someone in need would avoid waste and would not raise ethical concerns.