The JPL Ethics Office

Conflict of Interest FAQs

1. A JPL job applicant is an ex-Air Force sergeant who taught classes to pilots on flight electronic systems. He retired from the Air Force last month and wants to begin a civilian career in electronics. Can I discuss job openings with him or do I need to get an opinion from the Air Force Ethics official first?
 
  Assuming that this individual had not been involved in any procurement activities for the government involving JPL, he would not be required to obtain an opinion letter before you talk to him about employment.
 
2. Who do I contact for help on understanding the restrictions placed on hiring former government employees?
 
  You may call the JPL Ethics Office at (818) 354-6338. If necessary, the Ethics Office will consult with the Office of the General Counsel and/or Human Resources.
 
3. Can I discuss employment with a government employee?
 
  Yes, but before you do you should review your intentions with the Ethics Office. See question 1. Prior to any employment discussions you may have with the government employee, it would be wise remind him or her to recuse themselves from participating in any procurement actions involving the Laboratory.
 
4. Why do I need to worry about reassigning a former government employee a new job?
 
  Because the new position may involve a program which the employee may have been involved with during his or her tenure as a government employee and a conflict of interest could arise.
 
5. A former high-ranking NASA official wants to work for the Laboratory. Can I discuss potential employment possibilities with him?
 
  Not until he obtains an opinion letter, approving such contact, from the NASA Ethics Official. As a "Senior" level official, he will not be allowed to represent JPL before his former agency for one year following the end of his government service. If his prior position included personal and substantial involvement on a particular matter, he will not be allowed to ever represent anyone to any federal agency on that particular matter. If a particular matter was under this individual's official responsibility during his last year of government service, he will be barred for two years after leaving government service from representing anyone back to the government on that particular matter.
 
6. I'm planning to accept an assignment at NASA Headquarters that shouldn't present any "personal or substantial" or "official responsibility" problems. What happens, however, if my job changes once I've accepted the assignment?
 
  Before you leave JPL, your assignment will be negotiated between you, your management, and NASA. Your specific duties will be memorialized in a memorandum of understanding (MOU). If NASA or JPL propose to change your assignment thereafter, the MOU needs to be renegotiated and the former employee restrictions taken into account.
 
7. For purposes of assignments with government agencies, what is the definition of "participated?"
 
  "Participated" is defined as any action taken through decision, approval, disapproval, recommendation, rendering of advice, investigation, or other such action.
 
8. For purposes of assignments with government agencies, what is the definition of "particular matter?"
 
  "Particular matter" includes any investigation, application, request for a ruling or determining, rulemaking, project, procurement, contract, controversy, claim, charge, accusation, arrest, or judicial or other proceeding. The JPL Contract would be a good example of a "particular matter."
 
9. For purposes of assignments with government agencies, what is the definition of "personally and substantially?"
 
  "Personal" refers to direct participation or direction of a subordinate's participation in the matter. "Substantial" refers to participation that is of significance to the matter. In other words, you were a manager or a key player.
 
10. I was a design engineer working on Project A with no supervisory or policy-making responsibilities. As the project was nearing completion, I was asked to assist in the development of a statement of work for a follow-on contract. I am now in 090, as funding for the follow-on project has been delayed. If I start my own company, will I be allowed to bid on the follow-on contract? If I go to work for a support effort contractor doing business with the Laboratory, will that contracting company be allowed to compete on the project?
 
  a. With regard to being allowed to bid on the follow-on contract, the answer is no because you have an unfair competitive advantage. If, however, no other competitors respond to a request for proposals, there is a possibility that a waiver might be approved. Before such a waiver can be approved, there would need to be clear documentation that the competitive bidding process failed to produce any other bidders.
 
  b. With regard to a support contractor you work for being allowed to compete on the project, the answer is, "it depends." If your position with the contractor is an executive position, the answer is no. If your position with the contractor is as an engineer, the answer is yes. BUT you will not be allowed to have any contact with JPL employees on that project for one year because of your involvement in the SOW preparations.
 
11. Besides employees directly involved in a specific procurement, are there any other JPL employees who need to be particularly aware of the one year rule?
 
  Yes, JPL employees working in Procurement, Finance, Contracts, Contracts and Proposal Administration, or any other organization who might be privy to either vendor or JPL rates and pricing information will not be allowed to represent another company in a JPL matter.
 
12. What is meant by the term "Representative?"
 
  Anyone who, on behalf of another company, deals directly with JPL in any capacity involving the:
  • Marketing, negotiation, administration, or performance of a contract;
  • Making, proving, or settling of a claim, or;
  • Presentation of a matter or the settlement thereof.
 
13. I was Project Manager for the development of the first phase of a three phase project. If I leave the Laboratory at the end of Phase I, would I be allowed to compete for the Phase II work, as there is no competitor available with a working knowledge of the technology developed in Phase I?
 
  Under most circumstances, the answer is no because you have an unfair competitive advantage. If, however, no other competitors respond to a request for proposals, there is a possibility that a waiver might be approved. Before such a waiver can be approved, there would need to be clear documentation that the competitive bidding process failed to produce any other bidders.
 
14. I worked on a project as a design engineer with no managerial or policy-making responsibilities. Must I still wait one year after leaving JPL to work on that project, as an employee of a company under contract to JPL?
 
  No.
 
15. A computer programmer who worked on a project which is now completed left the Lab four months ago when the funding ended. He is now proposing, as an owner of a small contracting firm, to do work for the Lab on a new project. Can we do business with him?
 
  Yes, absent inside knowledge which could give him an unfair competitive advantage, he can compete. Any decision to award a sole source contract must be thoroughly documented and concurred with the by the Sole Source Review Board.
 
16. I went from being a full-time JPL employee to an on-call status four months ago. When does the one year clock start?
 
  The one year clock starts to run when you stop being a full-time JPL employee. The one year clock will reset to zero if, as an on-call employee, you participate in any procurement actions.
 
17. In my JPL position I am required to make funding decisions that affect several tasks, including one managed by me and another task managed by my girlfriend. Do I have a conflict of interest?
 
  Yes on both counts. The best solution would be for someone else in authority to make these decisions. If this is not possible, you should try to ameliorate the conflict.
 
18. Would your answer to the question above be different if the decision involved an issue other than funding?
 
  No.