Proposed changes to Homeland Security Department ethics rules could chill communications with the public and organizations, an executive of the Professional Services Council said in comments submitted yesterday.
The proposed rule could “hamper current efforts to foster greater communication with industry by characterizing as ‘outside employment’ any speaking engagement or any material written for publications by federal employees, regardless of whether the communications relate to their jobs and regardless of whether the employees are compensated,” a PSC spoke person explained.
“Such communication has never been characterized as ‘outside employment,’” said PSC Executive Vice President and Counsel Alan Chvotkin (pictured above).
“In our view, doing so will chill the important regular exchange of information between government officials and the public through organizations such as PSC,” he said.
Chvotkin characterized the potential of the rule as an “unintended consequence” and urged DHS to “differentiate between the employee speaking or writing as a representative of the agency and the employee’s activities that generate outside income over and above their government salary,” Chvotkin said.
“We believe the intent of the proposed rule is to cover instances when the employee is engaged in activities unrelated to their official position with the agency, particularly as a means of generating outside income for themselves,” he said.
In a Dec. 8 letter to DHS Deputy Ethics Official Ferne L. Mosley, Chvotkin explained that PSC, as is the case with virtually all trade groups, “does not offer any compensation to a DHS employee or to their agency, or to any other federal employee or federal agency, who is invited to speak to our association.”
He went on to explain that “accepting such speaking invitations has never been characterized as “outside employment” and should not now be characterized as such. In our view, doing so will chill the important regular exchange of information between government officials and the public through organizations such as PSC.”
Requests for comment from DHS had not been returned at the time this was initially reported. (Comments will be added if and when received.)