PCPID Quarterly Meeting: June 16–17, 2011
President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities
- The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID)
- Announcements, Meeting Announcements, Publication (Documents and Resources), Meeting Minutes
- Meeting Minutes, Meeting Announcement
Naomi Miske, Office of the General Counsel
Ms. Miske began by defining a Special Government Employee (SGE) and noting that SGEs have relaxed ethics rules when compared to fulltime Federal employees. She encouraged the members to take a look at the ethics rules and regulations. She indicated that the central ethics rule that the Committee members should concern themselves with is that they are prohibited from participating in a matter that would have a direct and predictable effect on their own financial interests. Ms. Miske noted that these rules are codified in a criminal statute and that violation of the rules could come with fines and possibly prison terms, and that the interests of a spouse, minor child, employer, general business partner or affiliated organization may also have interests, which can be imputed to the members. She advised Committee members to contact their ethics official, immediately, if they feel that they may have a possible conflict.
Ms. Miske then discussed some of the scenarios in which a conflict may arise and related some examples. She described the requirement and process for filing the OGE form 450 (financial disclosure form), noting that Committee members are required to fill them out annually. She related the various options for working around identified conflicts such as filing a waiver.
After Ms. Miske’s discussion of ethics guidelines relating to Committee member activities during and after their terms of service expire, several Committee members raised questions regarding the lifetime ban on certain activities, and the definition of “personally and substantially” as it relates to government ethics for SGEs. Members asked for additional clarification on several issues and Ms. Miske suggested that the they notify her office, directly, with questions about particular activities that may potentially be in conflict with the ethics statutes and guidelines. In response to a question regarding exception for gifts, Ms. Miske noted there is an exception for gifts worth $20 or less offered to you by a prohibited source. That is somebody who is impacted by the performance of your duties. No more than $50 from a source per year. In response to a question regarding press, Ms. Miske advised before a member gives an interview to the press, they should contact public affairs and get authorization from the Committee Chair. Laverdia Roach offered to provide members with the contact information for Mary Ann McMullen and staff of the Office of Public Affairs, Administration for Children and Families.
Commissioner Lewis followed up by asking the members to consider whether the press is contacting them specifically because of their role as a member of PCPID or, is the fact that they are a member of the Committee ancillary to the conversation.
In response to Dr. Spitalnik’s question regarding PCPID’s merge with ADD, Commissioner Lewis responded that when she talked to General Counsel about this previously, she understood that each member serves on the PCPID as an individual, not representing their own organization. She added that, as long as members are declaring, conflict of interest in terms of any matter before PCPID, as Naomi is describing it, they will be fine. Commissioner Lewis stated that the decisions of this Committee will not affect ADD funding resources in any manner, other than it would any other Advisory Committee.
Ms. Miske advised member “if you are asked to speak as a member and authorized to speak as a member of the Committee in your official function, you are invited to speak at a conference, and you are authorized to do so, you may accept free attendance and food at the conference the day you speak.”
In response to Mr. Boatright’s question, when testifying before State legislatures if he could list this in his credentials, Ms. Miske answered affirmatively.
In response to Chairman Brett’s inquiry regarding supporting pieces of legislation in the legislature, Ms. Miske replied that you can do it in your personal capacity and you should not do any of that on Committee time or on agency’s property.
In response to a question regarding speaking at nonprofit functions, Ms. Miske stated it was allowed. She stated PCPID primarily works on what we call general applicability matters. Naomi pointed out that the Committee members are prohibited from acting as an agent of a foreign principal or a lobbyist. She added that the statute does not prohibit the members lobbying in their personal capacity for something that they are passionate and acknowledgeable about. She also shared with the members that while they are in government building, using the government resources, they may not engage in partisan political activities.
Chainman Brett asked if a Committee member should accept invitation to speak to an outside group because of the title he or she holds at PCPID. Ms. Miske responded, “Yes,” many outside groups will invite Committee members to speak just because of their official positions. There are, however, rules on compensated teaching, speaking, writing, and expert witness. There are differences in the kinds of waivers that DHHS issues in such circumstances. There is not a good rule for ethics because so much of it depends on appearances, she added. Ms. Miske stressed that the PCPID DFO, Sharon Lewis, is the first line of defense here. ACF Deputy Ethics Counselor is Mr. Jason Donaldson and Ms. Donnell Savage is the ACF ethics contact person. The Designated Agency Ethics Official at DHHS is Mr. Ed Swindell. Ms. Miske thanked the Committee members and staff for this training opportunity.
Chairman Brett then represented the next guest speaker, Ms. Gail Bowles, Federal Agency Travel Administrator (FATA) for ACF. Gail shared her understanding that members will not receive individualized travel cards, as they are considered “invitational travelers.” ACF has an e-Gov travel service, called GovTrip, which enables staff to reserve Committee members lodging, airfare, rail, rental cars, etc. Ms. Bowles referred the Committee members to a section in their binders that included the “PCPID Travel Manual.” She added that the Committee members are expected to use a method of travel that is most advantageous to the government. In cases where there is a special need, such as a medical issue, members are required to submit a letter from their physicians, authorizing them to use the most costly method of transportation.
Ms. Bowles pointed out that the members’ per diem rates are determined by their official duty stations (home addresses). The GovTrip will automatically calculate the per diem rate. She stated that the members are expected to input their travel expenses that include receipts into GovTrip, five business days from their date of travel. Sheila Whittaker from the PCPID staff will enter members’ profiles in GOvTrip. As a lead FATA, Ms. Bowles is on call 24/7 to assist the members with their emergency needs. Staff will e-mail her Blackberry number to members.
Gail concluded her presentation by wishing all the PCPID members a safe trip as they maneuver back and forth from their duty stations to PCPID meeting sites.