Agencies must receive OPM approval to convert politicals

Monday - 6/11/2012, 5:48pm EDT

The Office of Personnel Management warned agencies to tread carefully when converting political appointees to jobs in the nonpolitical excepted service and the career Senior Executive Service (SES), especially during an election year.

OPM Director John Berry sent a memo to agency leaders Friday referencing guidelines that require agencies to seek permission from OPM before placing current and recent political appointees in competitive or non-political excepted service positions.

The guidelines also say that OPM will review proposed career SES appointments to ensure they comply with merit system principles and applicable civil service laws. After a successful review by the agency, the person will move on to a Qualifications Review Board. The QRB will determine whether individuals have the leadership skills required to join the SES. But there are exceptions.

"OPM will suspend the processing of Qualifications Review Board cases when an agency head leaves office or announces his or her intention to leave office, or if the President has nominated a new agency head," according to the guidelines. "OPM imposes a moratorium on Qualifications Review Board cases when it learns of an agency head's planned departure so that the incoming agency head will have the opportunity to make or approve executive resource decisions that will affect the agency during his or her tenure. However, OPM will consider requests for exceptions to such a moratorium on a case-by-case basis"

The guidelines also prohibit agencies from providing senior political appointees with incentives awards between June 1, 2012 and Jan. 20, 2013.

"During a Presidential election period these requirements demand particularly close attention to ensure agency personnel actions adhere faithfully to these principles, unless they are subject to an appropriate exception," Berry wrote.

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