Frequently Asked Questions-Misuse of Position


Question: Due to recent terrorist threats, my wife pulled an office emergency pack together for me. Since I've brought it to work several employees have expressed interest with her assembling similar packs for them. She's not currently employed and the possibility of marketing and selling such packs for employees and others appeals to her. Will this create any ethics problems for me?

Answer: Her sale of such products should pose no ethics problems for you as long as you have nothing to do with marketing or selling of them in the workplace. However, your involvement could be viewed as misusing your official position. In other words, don't bring them to the office to sell them to employees, and don't advertise their sale using government computers and other recourses, including your time and equipment. Suggestion: If she would like to sell products in a Federal facility, suggest that she contact the property manager for space in the Bistro Café.

Finally, if she's feeling charitable, she might supply you with a list of items in your pack, and you in turn, could make that list available to your coworkers at no cost. In such an environment, no cautionary measures relating to ethics apply. See 5 CFR 2635.702; 704; 705

Use of non-public information

Question: You are completing your doctoral degree and need to use information from your Agency. The information is your work product. What do you need to do to be able to use the information?

Answer: You may use the information if it is publicly available. Regulation 5 C.F.R. § 2635.703 provides the criteria for deciding what information is publicly available. If you are unsure that it is publicly available, you should request authorization to use the information from an official in your Agency with Ethics program responsibility for giving such authorization.

Question: You have earned your doctorate using information from you Agency. May you copyright it?

Answer: Yes. The information you used must be publicly available, or you must have received authorization for the disclosure. However, you must have written the dissertation on your own time. See Section 5 CFR § 2635.703

Question: I'm involved in a professional association that practices within my area of expertise. I think they'd be very interested in some long-range plans that we haven't made public yet.

Answer: No doubt they would. Don't tell them. Employees are not to use or allow the improper use of non-public information to further a private interest, either their own or another's. We all have access to non-public information, and we have an obligation to prevent unauthorized releases.