115 FW 2
Date: May 18, 2012
Series: Information and Expression
Part 115: Public Information
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Overview of Policy
Responsibilities of Employees
A. The Service respects the right of employees to engage in public communications regarding the programs, operations, and activities of the Service and the Department, including matters related to their official duties, or based primarily on knowledge acquired through official duties.
B. This chapter describes the rights and obligations of Service employees when expressing their individual opinions concerning Service or Departmental programs, operations, and activities.
2.2 What is the scope of this chapter?
A. This policy addresses public communications in an individual capacity on matters related to the employee’s official duties or based primarily on the employee’s area of expertise or on knowledge acquired through his/her official duties. Examples of these communications include, but are not limited to:
(1) News media requests for interviews on Service or Department-related matters;
(2) Personal statements on Service or Department-related matters;
(3) Letters to the editor and other editorial products expressing an employee’s viewpoint on Service or Department-related matters; and
(4) Similar expressions of personal views on Service or Department-related issues over the Internet or using other electronic methods.
B. Except as otherwise noted, this chapter does not apply to the development and submission of scientific, scholarly, and technical articles and reports produced as a result of official activities submitted to or published in peer-reviewed scientific, scholarly, or technical publications. These publications include the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management and North American Fauna. For policies and procedures governing these types of articles, refer to 117 FW 1, Policy Review Guidance for Scientific Publications.
C. Employees who invoke the Service’s name or who want to use their official title in the course of expressing their personal views on issues both related and unrelated to their Service work must follow appropriate policy (see section 2.6).
A. Clearly understand and comply with their obligation to distinguish their individual opinions from those of the Service or the Department when expressing their personal views,
B. Understand what constitutes individual public communication of Service policy or opinion, and
C. Understand the circumstances under which they may use their official title or the Service’s name when communicating their personal views both related and unrelated to their work for the Service.
A. Departmental Manual (DM) 470, Public Communications.
B. Standards for Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (5 CFR 2635), including:
(1) Use of Public Office for Private Gain (5 CFR 2635.702(b)),
(2) Teaching, Speaking and Writing (5 CFR 2635.807(b)),
(3) Use of Government Property (5 CFR 2635.704), and
(4) Use of Official Time (5 CFR 2635.705).
2.5 What terms to you need to know to understand this chapter? See 115 FW 1 for definitions of the terms used in Part 115.
2.6 What are employees’ rights and obligations regarding public communications in their individual capacity? Employees may engage in public communications regarding the programs, operations, and activities of the Service and the Department, including matters related to their official duties or based primarily on knowledge acquired through official duties, provided that:
A. They do not disclose information protected from disclosure by statute, regulation, Executive Order, or other Executive Branch or Departmental policies or directives, including classified information and controlled, unclassified information such as personally identifiable information, and information protected by the Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C 1905), Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552(a)), and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552).
(1) For example, exemption 5 of FOIA allows agencies to protect from disclosure pre-decisional and deliberative information, which may include drafts, reports, and other information.
(2) Because of this, unless information has already been published or otherwise publicly released by the Department or Service, employees must seek guidance from their supervisor before engaging in public communications regarding the information.
B. They do not violate the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, (5 CFR 2635.101-902), or the regulations governing Departmental employee responsibilities and conduct (43 CFR 20).
(1) For example, the Standards of Ethical Conduct explain that employees communicating in their individual capacity may not use or allow the use of their official titles or positions in such a way that someone would believe they were communicating on behalf of the Department or Service. When employees engage in public communication in their individual capacity regarding the programs, operations, and activities of the Service or the Department, they must clearly indicate that they are not representing the views of the Service or Department.
(2) The Standards of Ethical Conduct place limitations on receiving compensation for writing, teaching, and speaking in an individual capacity.
(3) There are also special rules on compensation for outside activities that apply to Presidential appointees, even if the activity is not related to official duties (see 5 CFR 2635.807).
(4) Employees should contact the Departmental Ethics Office or their Service Ethics Counselor for advice before accepting outside compensation for nonofficial or personal communications.
C. They do not violate the Department’s Limited Personal Use of Government Office Equipment and Library Collection policy (410 DM 2), which limits employees’ personal use of Government equipment, such as computers and copiers. Use of Government equipment must not interfere with official business or involve commercial gain, and the expense to the Government must be negligible.
D. Any employee who chooses to speak to the news media about his or her work or the work of the Service is responsible for the content and accuracy of the statements.
E. If you have a question about whether you can disclose information, consult with your supervisor, FOIA officer, or Ethics Counselor.
2.7 What are employees’ rights and obligations when they receive interview requests from the news media?
A. Employees who receive interview requests from the news media about Departmental or Service matters should notify their External Affairs office before granting the interview. Notifying the appropriate External Affairs office gives the Service the opportunity to determine how best to respond in an official capacity, whether through the employee or by other means.
B. After notifying External Affairs staff, if employees choose to speak to the news media without authorization to speak for the Service, they must explicitly state to the reporter (preferably in writing) that:
(1) They are not authorized to speak for the Service,
(2) They are expressing their personal viewpoints and opinions, and
(3) Their personal viewpoints and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Service.
C. Employees must also comply with the guidance and limitations in section 2.6 above.
2.8 What are the rights and responsibilities of employees who want to speak or otherwise communicate about their scientific, scholarly, or technical work?
A. Employees may, consistent with procedures in this policy and those in 117 FW 1, speak to the news media and the public about their official work and freely and openly discuss scientific, scholarly, technical and management ideas, approaches, findings, and conclusions based on their official work.
B. Material submitted to or published in peer-reviewed scientific, scholarly, or technical publications is not subject to prior approval by the Service or the Department’s Office of Communications. However, when programs or offices determine that the material meets one of the following conditions, the employee must notify his/her External Affairs office and make a copy available when asked to do so:
(1) Involves important new scientific, scholarly, or other technical information;
(2) Has direct bearing on policy questions; or
(3) Relates to programs of the Service, Department, other bureaus of the Department, or other Federal agencies.
C. The Service encourages publication of such materials through scientific, scholarly, or technical journals in lieu of Government publication. For procedures for these types of non-government publications, see 476 DM and 117 FW 1.
For information on the content of this chapter, contact the Division of Communications. For more information about this Web site, contact Krista Bibb in the Division of Policy and Directives Management.