It’s An Election Year: OPM Issues Warning to Agencies on Personnel Actions

OPM has issued a memo to agency heads advising them of restrictions on appointments and awards during election season

It’s an election year and, in addition to the increasingly long campaigns for national office, there will be periodic reminders to federal employees and agencies of restrictions or warnings about any obligation to remain neutral in the workplace.

As it has done in previous election years, OPM has issued a note to personnel officers about giving appointments and awards to political appointees.

OPM director Kay Coles James sent a memo to heads of agencies and departments that says “All official personnel records should clearly document the continued adherence with Federal merit principles and remain free of any prohibited personnel practices.”

There are often numerous changes in political positions as a president’s term of office comes to a close (even if another term of office may be in the works). Known as “burrowing in,” some relative newcomers to the federal workforce prefer the job security (along with the pay and benefits) of a career federal position instead of returning to wherever they came from before getting the political appointment. Knowing the tendency of some to make these appointments quickly and quietly, the OPM director says “In particular, the appointments of Schedule C and Noncareer Senior Executive Service employees to competitive service positions require careful attention to ensure that they comply with merit principles regarding fair and open competition.”

OPM is requiring pre-appointment review of some personnel actions. Specifically,

–Proposed competitive service appointment actions that involve a current or former (within the last 5 years) incumbent of an executive branch position excepted from the competitive service under Schedule C.

–Proposed competitive service appointment actions that involve a current or former (within the last 5 years) Noncareer Senior Executive Service (SES) appointee.

OPM also points out the prohibition on some political appointees getting awards during an election season (i.e. beginning June 1, 2004, through January 20, 2005).

You can read the entire OPM memo to agency heads from the link on the left hand side of the page.

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