DHS to limit employees' outside employment

Thursday - 10/13/2011, 7:07pm EDT

By Ruben Gomez
Reporter
Federal News Radio

The Homeland Security Department has proposed a new rule to limit the kinds of outside jobs and activities some of its employees can participate in.

The proposal aims to prevent perceived conflicts of interest by prohibiting employees in certain DHS components from taking part in outside employment and activities that "could cause a reasonable person to question an employee's impartiality and objectivity," according to an Oct. 12 Federal Register notice.

The rule also would require DHS employees to obtain approval before taking on certain jobs and activities outside of the government, including services offered as an officer, employee, consultant, teacher or speaker. The proposal would task the DHS inspector general with drafting procedures for obtaining prior approval.

Homeland Security leaders drafted their proposals as a supplement to Office of Government Ethics regulations published for all executive branch agencies in 1992.

The proposed prior approval requirement would not apply to certain uncompensated activities, including those for nonprofit charitable, religious and professional groups. The rule would allow for reimbursement of expenses.

Employees at Customs and Border Protection would need to avoid certain outside employment and activities related to immigration, customs and agriculture. The same provision would apply to employees working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

CBP and ICE employees also would need to notify management in writing, if their spouses, other household members or financial dependents work in the prohibited positions.

Going further, the rules would ban employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency from working for FEMA contractors.

The prohibitions and prior approval requirements would not apply to special government employees, who might work for DHS as temporary employees.

New purchasing rules

The proposed rule also would prevent DHS employees from purchasing some government property, including:

  • Property owned by the government and under control of the employee's agency, unless the General Services Administration is selling the property.

  • Property seized or forfeited under action by the employees at a DHS agency

Designated agency ethics officials could grant waivers to the prohibition, if the purchase would "not cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the particular circumstances to question the employee's impartiality," according to the notice.

The officials also would need to consider whether the purchase would create the appearance that the employee used his or her official position for personal gain.

The proposal is open for comment until Dec. 12.

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