The National Academy of Public Administration has announced the panel of five experts who will carry out a congressional required study on the possible effects of putting some federal employees’ personal financial disclosure statements on the Internet.
The study is due at the end of March. The panel’s members are:
David Chu, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Defense Analyses; former Office of Personnel Management director Janice Lachance, who is now chief executive officer of the Special Libraries Association; Martha Kumar, a political science professor at Towson State University; Ronald Sanders, former chief human capital officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, now at consultant Booz, Allen, Hamilton; and retired Vice Admiral Lewis Crenshaw, who works for Grant Thornton, another consulting firm.
Chu will chair the panel, according to a NAPA announcement. Backing up the group will be a seven-member project study team.
The online posting requirement, included in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act signed last April, would apply to some 28,000 Senior Executive Service members, political appointees and others, according to the Office of Government Ethics. The annual disclosure statements are already public, but are typically available only on paper following a written request. The requirement was originally supposed to take effect at the end of August, but Congress has repeatedly postponed the deadline in response to concerns raised about the potential impact on employee privacy and national security. The latest delay runs until April 15.
As a key deadline draws nearer, the Senior Executives Association continues to press its case against Internet posting of top career federal officials’ financial disclosure reports. That recently enacted requirement is set to kick in by the end of August for some 28,000 Senior Executive Service members, political appointees, and military general and flag officers. In a six-page paper released today, SEA urges a delay in implementation “for careful consideration” of the potential impact, followed by action to exclude career feds if the case against the new mandate “is as one-sided as we believe.”
Among the association’s arguments: Online access will increase the risk of identity theft, give criminal gangs access to federal officials’ personal financial information and make it harder to attract talent to the Senior Executive Service. While the organization has raised most of these points before, the paper represents its most detailed critique to date. Already, the new rules are leading many senior executives to consider retirement or reverting to a GS-15 level, according to the paper.
“The audience is obviously both Congress and the administration and frankly just to get more people thinking about this,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro said in a phone interview. The association is also exploring the possibility of a lawsuit on Privacy Act grounds, she said.
The online disclosure requirement is part of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, signed in April mainly to ensure that lawmakers don’t use inside information to fatten their portfolios. Along the way, however, someone in the House (just who isn’t clear) decided it would be a good idea to make it easier for the public to see the annual disclosure reports filed by Executive Branch officials. Although those reports–officially known as Office of Government Ethics Form 278s–are already public, they have generally been available only on paper via a written request. As a rule, agencies haven’t made it easy to access them. Even finding out who has to file can be a chore.
But as SEA notes, the new requirement was added without so much as a congressional hearing. While Office of Government Ethics officials had hoped to issue implementing guidance to agencies by the end of April, that task has apparently turned out to be harder than expected. Almost two months later, OGE isn’t saying when that advice might come. Eventually, the ethics office is supposed to build a central website to house the reports. Until then, agencies are supposed to post them on their own sites.
Incidentally, another STOCK Act deadline is just two weeks away: As of July 3, federal officials covered by the Form 278 filing requirements must divulge stock purchases and other transactions worth more than $1,000 within 45 days. Until now, they have only had to report those transactions once a year.