(a) Consideration of appearances by the employee. Where an employee knows that a particular matter involving specific parties is likely to have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interest of a member of his household, or knows that a person with whom he has a covered relationship is or represents a party to such matter, and where the employee determines that the circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality in the matter, the employee should not participate in the matter unless he has informed the agency designee of the appearance problem and received authorization from the agency designee in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.
(1) In considering whether a relationship would cause a reasonable person to question his impartiality, an employee may seek the assistance of his supervisor, an agency ethics official or the agency designee.
(2) An employee who is concerned that circumstances other than those specifically described in this section would raise a question regarding his impartiality should use the process described in this section to determine whether he should or should not participate in a particular matter.
(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:
(1) An employee has a covered relationship with:
(i) A person, other than a prospective employer described in § 2635.603(c), with whom the employee has or seeks a business, contractual or other financial relationship that involves other than a routine consumer transaction;
(ii) A person who is a member of the employee's household, or who is a relative with whom the employee has a close personal relationship;
(iii) A person for whom the employee's spouse, parent or dependent child is, to the employee's knowledge, serving or seeking to serve as an officer, director, trustee, general partner, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor or employee;
(iv) Any person for whom the employee has, within the last year, served as officer, director, trustee, general partner, agent, attorney, consultant, contractor or employee; or
(v) An organization, other than a political party described in 26 U.S.C. 527(e), in which the employee is an active participant. Participation is active if, for example, it involves service as an official of the organization or in a capacity similar to that of a committee or subcommittee chairperson or spokesperson, or participation in directing the activities of the organization. In other cases, significant time devoted to promoting specific programs of the organization, including coordination of fundraising efforts, is an indication of active participation. Payment of dues or the donation or solicitation of financial support does not, in itself, constitute active participation.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to suggest that an employee should not participate in a matter because of his political, religious or moral views.
(2) Direct and predictable effect has the meaning set forth in § 2635.402(b)(1).
(3) Particular matter involving specific parties has the meaning set forth in § 2637.102(a)(7) of this chapter.
An employee of the General Services Administration has made an offer to purchase a restaurant owned by a local developer. The developer has submitted an offer in response to a GSA solicitation for lease of office space. Under the circumstances, she would be correct in concluding that a reasonable person would be likely to question her impartiality if she were to participate in evaluating that developer's or its competitor's lease proposal.
An employee of the Department of Labor is providing technical assistance in drafting occupational safety and health legislation that will affect all employers of five or more persons. His wife is employed as an administrative assistant by a large corporation that will incur additional costs if the proposed legislation is enacted. Because the legislation is not a particular matter involving specific parties, the employee may continue to work on the legislation and need not be concerned that his wife's employment with an affected corporation would raise a question concerning his impartiality.
An employee of the Defense Logistics Agency who has responsibilities for testing avionics being produced by an Air Force contractor has just learned that his sister-in-law has accepted employment as an engineer with the contractor's parent corporation. Where the parent corporation is a conglomerate, the employee could reasonably conclude that, under the circumstances, a reasonable person would not be likely to question his impartiality if he were to continue to perform his test and evaluation responsibilities.
An engineer has just resigned from her position as vice president of an electronics company in order to accept employment with the Federal Aviation Administration in a position involving procurement responsibilities. Although the employee did not receive an extraordinary payment in connection with her resignation and has severed all financial ties with the firm, under the circumstances she would be correct in concluding that her former service as an officer of the company would be likely to cause a reasonable person to question her impartiality if she were to participate in the administration of a DOT contract for which the firm is a first-tier subcontractor.
An employee of the Internal Revenue Service is a member of a private organization whose purpose is to restore a Victorian-era railroad station and she chairs its annual fundraising drive. Under the circumstances, the employee would be correct in concluding that her active membership in the organization would be likely to cause a reasonable person to question her impartiality if she were to participate in an IRS determination regarding the tax-exempt status of the organization.
(c) Determination by agency designee. Where he has information concerning a potential appearance problem arising from the financial interest of a member of the employee's household in a particular matter involving specific parties, or from the role in such matter of a person with whom the employee has a covered relationship, the agency designee may make an independent determination as to whether a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would be likely to question the employee's impartiality in the matter. Ordinarily, the agency designee's determination will be initiated by information provided by the employee pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section. However, at any time, including after the employee has disqualified himself from participation in a matter pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section, the agency designee may make this determination on his own initiative or when requested by the employee's supervisor or any other person responsible for the employee's assignment.
(1) If the agency designee determines that the employee's impartiality is likely to be questioned, he shall then determine, in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section, whether the employee should be authorized to participate in the matter. Where the agency designee determines that the employee's participation should not be authorized, the employee will be disqualified from participation in the matter in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section.
(2) If the agency designee determines that the employee's impartiality is not likely to be questioned, he may advise the employee, including an employee who has reached a contrary conclusion under paragraph (a) of this section, that the employee's participation in the matter would be proper.
(d) Authorization by agency designee. Where an employee's participation in a particular matter involving specific parties would not violate 18 U.S.C. 208(a), but would raise a question in the mind of a reasonable person about his impartiality, the agency designee may authorize the employee to participate in the matter based on a determination, made in light of all relevant circumstances, that the interest of the Government in the employee's participation outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the agency's programs and operations. Factors which may be taken into consideration include:
(1) The nature of the relationship involved;
(2) The effect that resolution of the matter would have upon the financial interests of the person involved in the relationship;
(3) The nature and importance of the employee's role in the matter, including the extent to which the employee is called upon to exercise discretion in the matter;
(4) The sensitivity of the matter;
(5) The difficulty of reassigning the matter to another employee; and
(6) Adjustments that may be made in the employee's duties that would reduce or eliminate the likelihood that a reasonable person would question the employee's impartiality.
Authorization by the agency designee shall be documented in writing at the agency designee's discretion or when requested by the employee. An employee who has been authorized to participate in a particular matter involving specific parties may not thereafter disqualify himself from participation in the matter on the basis of an appearance problem involving the same circumstances that have been considered by the agency designee.
The Deputy Director of Personnel for the Department of the Treasury and an attorney with the Department's Office of General Counsel are general partners in a real estate partnership. The Deputy Director advises his supervisor, the Director of Personnel, of the relationship upon being assigned to a selection panel for a position for which his partner has applied. If selected, the partner would receive a substantial increase in salary. The agency designee cannot authorize the Deputy Director to participate on the panel under the authority of this section since the Deputy Director is prohibited by criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. 208(a), from participating in a particular matter affecting the financial interest of a person who is his general partner. See § 2635.402.
A new employee of the Securities and Exchange Commission is assigned to an investigation of insider trading by the brokerage house where she had recently been employed. Because of the sensitivity of the investigation, the agency designee may be unable to conclude that the Government's interest in the employee's participation in the investigation outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the investigation, even though the employee has severed all financial ties with the company. Based on consideration of all relevant circumstances, the agency designee might determine, however, that it is in the interest of the Government for the employee to pass on a routine filing by the particular brokerage house.
An Internal Revenue Service employee involved in a long and complex tax audit is advised by her son that he has just accepted an entry-level management position with a corporation whose taxes are the subject of the audit. Because the audit is essentially complete and because the employee is the only one with an intimate knowledge of the case, the agency designee might determine, after considering all relevant circumstances, that it is in the Government's interest for the employee to complete the audit, which is subject to additional levels of review.
(e) Disqualification. Unless the employee is authorized to participate in the matter under paragraph (d) of this section, an employee shall not participate in a particular matter involving specific parties when he or the agency designee has concluded, in accordance with paragraph (a) or (c) of this section, that the financial interest of a member of the employee's household, or the role of a person with whom he has a covered relationship, is likely to raise a question in the mind of a reasonable person about his impartiality. Disqualification is accomplished by not participating in the matter.
(1) Notification. An employee who becomes aware of the need to disqualify himself from participation in a particular matter involving specific parties to which he has been assigned should notify the person responsible for his assignment. An employee who is responsible for his own assignment should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that he does not participate in the matter from which he is disqualified. Appropriate oral or written notification of the employee's disqualification may be made to coworkers by the employee or a supervisor to ensure that the employee is not involved in a particular matter involving specific parties from which he is disqualified.
(2) Documentation. An employee need not file a written disqualification statement unless he is required by part 2634 of this chapter to file written evidence of compliance with an ethics agreement with the Office of Government Ethics or is specifically asked by an agency ethics official or the person responsible for his assignment to file a written disqualification statement. However, an employee may elect to create a record of his actions by providing written notice to a supervisor or other appropriate official.
(f) Relevant considerations. An employee's reputation for honesty and integrity is not a relevant consideration for purposes of any determination required by this section.