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Jun 28, 2010


Phil Donohoe

You wrote, "one can almost understand how the MMS employees may not have known that receiving the [Peach Bowl] tickets was wrong." As an appointed Ethics Counselor for a federal agency, I can tell you your analysis of the Widely-Attended Gathering (WAG) exception to the gift prohibitions (applied to free tickets to the Peach Bowl) glosses over the exception's element, "your attendance is approved as being in the interest of DOI." The exception only comes into play when/if the substance of the event, its subject matter, its purpose, and its actual content is related to the official interests or the official mission of the agency, here, DOI. That point raises the question, "What possible interest could DOI have in a DOI employee's attendance at the Peach Bowl?" None. Or, "in what fashion is the Peach Bowl even remotely related to DOI's mission or its interests?" None. Or, "how could a DOI employee's attendance at a college football game possibly further by even a millimeter DOI's mission or DOI's agency interests?" Not at all. That's the point your analysis misses when it seeks to use the WAG exception to suggest free Peach Bowl tickets could plausibly come within the WAG exception. The exception, quite simply, cannot apply to an agency employee's mere attendance at (free tickets to) a sporting event, paid for by any entity regulated by the agency. That's the point that was totally missed. Moreover, the WAG exception requires acceptance be "approved", which means, "by the Agency Ethics Counselor." Even a novice Ethics Counselor could not honestly or reasonably conclude the WAG exception applies to free tickets offered for an agency employee to sit in a seat and watch a football game live. How could that possibly further DOI's interests at all? The suggestion is laughable (or, the conclusion is reached in obvious bad faith, merely to provide "cover" to the employee offered free tickets to the Peach Bowl.)

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