Money, Power and Temptation Can Lead to Problems

The Office of Government Ethics has released a report on conflict of interest prosecutions. Some ethics violations can get a person in serious trouble.

How many ways can a federal employee get in trouble?

As you might imagine, many government jobs have a lot of responsibility. Some of these jobs also offer a chance to make a few dollars on the side for those who may be looking for the opportunity.

The vast majority of federal employees are honest and serve their country honorably. The federal workforce is also well-educated and relatively sophisticated. So it isn’t surprising that when a few people do get in trouble the scheme can be creative as well as potentially profitable for the miscreants–at least until they get caught.

The Office of Government Ethics has released a new report showing a few of the ways some people have gotten into serious trouble. The report is called the “Conflict of Interest Prosecution Survey.”

You can download the entire report from the link on the left hand side of this page and read more about these cases.

Here is a quick summary of several of the cases in the report.

One instance involved the head of an office and an attorney in the same Treasury Department office. They figured out how to use the government procurement process to funnel money to their own business. They developed a software program at their government job and, in return for buying from their company, they would award government contracts to those making the purchase.

Each man was sentenced to 87 months in prison and a fine. The case is still being appealed.

In another case, an Internal Revenue Service employee used the power of his office to help a taxpayer with whom he was having a close personal relationship. The employee received a free trip to Las Vegas from the taxpayer and took action to impede IRS action against the taxpayer. This employee received two years of probation.

An attorney with the Treasury Department with a speciality in certain types of fraud involving high yield bank notes saw a chance to make a little money using his government expertise. In conjunction with his federal employment, he accepted $15,000 for advice regarding an illegal ponzi scheme. The (by now former fed) received a prison sentence, and various fines.

What can be learned from this? Most cases did not involve large amounts of money. Those involved destroyed their reputations and careers for relatively minor financial gain.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47