Question for the Professional Ethics Board (PEB)

The Journal of Government Financial Management, Fall 2019 | Go to article overview

Question for the Professional Ethics Board (PEB)


Should federal employees list their government employment status on dating or other social media websites? There could be something to gain in doing so, such as touting their power, position, access to information or locations, knowledge/expertise, income or military rank.

PEB Response

There is no universal answer to this general question. A solution in a specific situation will depend on the exact way in which the information was presented, the underlying motive of the federal employee in offering it, and any policies or guidance that the employee's organization may have established.

Several considerations must be kept in mind. Appendix A of the 2018 AGA Ethics Handbook provides explanations and interpretations of AGA's Code of Ethics (the Code). Specifically, with regards to personal behavior, Appendix A states: "Do not use your official title, badges, identification cards, official letterhead or the stature of your public office to gain any personal advantage or to create the appearance of government endorsement of your personal activities or those of others."

The Code also makes clear that AGA members are expected to "adhere to the standards of conduct of [their] employer and any professional associations or organizations of which [they] are a member."

If questions arise about the social media activities of a federal employee of the executive branch, look to 5 CFR Part 2635 - Standards of Ethical Conduct for Executive Branch Employees (5 CFR 2635). Mainly, Subpart G - Misuse of Position contains provisions to ensure employees do not misuse their official positions. The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Legal Advisory 15-03 (OGE LA 15-03) further explains the stipulations and related issues, such as references to title and personal fundraising on social media. …

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