Post-Employment Rules for All USDA Employees

Post-Employment Rules for All USDA Employees


Hello, and welcome to the first of several
presentations about the rules that apply to you after you leave the USDA. I’m your host, Danielle Barrett, and this series
is brought to you by the USDA of Office Ethics, where
we’re happy to answer all of your questions at the
end of this presentation. Today, we’ll be discussing the most basic
rule after you leave the USDA: It’s 18 USC section 207, and it’s a statutory prohibition
covering all former employees of USDA. With me now is my Office of Ethics colleague
Caitlin Rogalski, who’s here to explain the basics for us. Thanks Danielle; happy to be here. As you said, the basic prohibition for 18
USC 207 covers everyone, regardless of what level of management you are. What is it? The short version is this:
The prohibition states that you may not knowingly make a communication or appearance with the
intent to influence before a USDA employee about a particular matter involving specific
parties that you worked personally and substantially on as a USDA employee. That’s it? Yeah. That’s the crux of it. Terrific, We’re done! We can go home! Although, I’m just curious…what did any
of that legalese even mean, Caitlin? Let’s break it down into the elements and
then maybe come up with a simpler way of explaining
it. The first element is this idea of making a
communication or appearance… The things we’re NOT supposed to do… Right! The definition for communication or appearance
can mean almost anything It includes the obvious, like calling someone
on the phone or emailing them. It also includes signing documents on behalf
of an outside entity, especially if you know that your former colleagues will see your
name on a document and be influenced by it. It also includes just sitting in a room during
a meeting even if you don’t say anything. Surely there’s a need to communicate back
to USDA about something? Because the prohibition requires that there
be an intent to influence. For example, let’s say I’m a former meat
inspector and I leave USDA during an inspection to work for a processor. What if I then need to know about a new protocol
I need to comply with? Or what if I get elected to a state office
and need to speak with USDA about a program I worked on while I was still at USDA? Good questions! You’re correct that intent to influence
plays a part in how you can communicate back to USDA. Intent to influence means that you’re seeking
some kind of action by the government or attempting to affect the government in certain situations. So there are exceptions? There are commonsense exceptions such as calling
your friends to talk about personal stuff, just requesting information, testifying under
oath, though not necessarily as an expert witness, and other examples. If you’re an elected official for a state
or local government, then you can communicate with intent to influence back to USDA. There are other exceptions as well, but those
are the most common. So it’s a good idea to call the Office of
Ethics first before you do any communication so we can make sure you don’t violate the
law. OK, so I understand not to communicate or
make an appearance with intent to influence. But what is it that I can’t communicate? This would be a good time to talk about particular
matters involving specific parties. Think about it as a way of describing kinds
of government work. The kinds of work we’re concerned with here
are ones that have discrete, named parties to them. Can you give us some examples? Sure. Examples would include contracts, procurements,
inspections, litigations, investigations, licensures, charges, or others. They typically involve an isolatable transaction
that affects specifically named persons or entities. Take a simple contract: the named parties
are USDA and the contractor. That’s a particular matter involving specific
parties. OK, that makes sense. So I can’t communicate with USDA about those
kinds of things? Right, but we’re going to take this category
and constrain it only to those things you actually worked on while you were at USDA. If you were a contracts specialist, you cannot
communicate with intent to influence back to USDA about any of those contracts you worked
on. I also need to bring up another concept here,
which is personal and substantial participation. Any of those matters that you worked on where
you were doing merely administrative or ministerial tasks, such as scheduling conference rooms, making copies, etc. don’t count as personal substantial. Almost anything else you do may count. So if I participated personally and substantially
on a particular matter involving specific parties, I cannot communicate back to USDA
if I am intending to influence USDA about it. Bingo. That’s right. How long am I not allowed to communicate back? For as long as the particular matter involving
specific parties exists. That’s why ethics officials often shorthand
this prohibition as the lifetime ban. Wow, that seems a bit stringent. What harm are we trying to prevent with this? It all comes down to access and influence. The statute was passed to prevent people from
flipping sides on litigation or using their old contacts to influence government
work. That’s why, for regular employees, you can
still communicate with USDA, but not on anything you used to touch. Wouldn’t this make it hard to find a job
after leaving the USDA? No, there is nothing in the ethics law that
prohibits you from working at a particular place, and you can work anywhere you want. The law simply prohibits the kind of things
that you can talk about with the USDA. One thing you may not know is that you can
work “behind the scenes” on the same particular matter at an outside entity. You just can’t talk to USDA about it on
behalf of your new employer. Ok that’s pretty clear. But there is one more thing… Uh oh. What’s that? There are more prohibitions as you go up the
food chain. The one we discussed today applies to everyone,
but supervisors have a more stringent standard. So do so-called senior employees and very
senior employees. I need to caution everyone that with rank
comes more restrictions, and we’ve only covered the most basic one today. OK. So how can your office help our colleagues
figure this all out? Easy. Just remember to call the Office of Ethics
if you need assistance. We’re happy to provide you advice and counsel
before you even start looking for a job. And we will also continue to provide advice
and counsel even after you have left. So you’re the ethics advisors for life… That’s right! Ok, thanks Caitlin. Thanks again for being with us, and thank you again for watching. Stay tuned for more interesting and relevant
USDA ethics training in the near future. In the meantime, have a great and productive
day.

One thought on “Post-Employment Rules for All USDA Employees

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2019 Toneatronic. All rights reserved.