‘Ethics Answers’ Talks Hypothetical Ethical Scenarios — Cuz There Are No Real Life Examples?

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— Domani Spero

State Magazine now includes an ‘Ethics Answers’ box where hypothetical ethical scenarios Department employees might face are presented. The January issue includes the following (pdf):

Q: I was recently assigned to a new post. My new supervisor frequently has me do personal things for her, like typing her son’s college application or picking up her dry-cleaning. I feel I shouldn’t be asked to do these things. Am I right?

A: Yes. Ethics regulations prohibit a supervisor (or any Executive Branch employee) from encouraging, directing, coercing or requesting a subordinate to perform these types of personal services during work hours or personal time. By asking you to perform these tasks, your boss has taken advantage of her official position to gain personal services she would otherwise need to perform herself or pay someone else to do. Under ethics rules, this is a “misuse of position”—using official time, authority, title, information or resources for private gain, either one’s own or another’s. Other examples of misuse of position include using one’s official position to obtain a travel upgrade, asking the visa office to give priority to a friend’s visa application or using your official title to fundraise for your child’s school.

For help with real ethical questions, email ethicsattorneymailbox@state.gov.

Why can’t the ethics attorney use real cases without mentioning names and posts?

Let’s try this.

The ambassador’s OMS at an EUR post was routinely asked to take the dog and kids for walks while the boss worked after hours.

Or, during the embassy’s Christmas bazaar, the ambassador’s OMS and an official residence employee were tasked with selling bags and crafts owned by the ambassador’s wife.

Is that too hard?  You may play the ethics crossword puzzles here, have fun, learn the regs. Pardon me, and then what?  After you know that you’re right, what then?  An excellent question that we hope “Ethics Answers” would answer one day.

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