Abuse of Authority

Executives, managers and supervisors in federal agencies are often afforded a great deal of leeway and discretion in making personnel decisions about their own personal matters (i.e., time and attendance, travel schedules, use of government property, etc.). However, be careful not to take advantage of this discretion and be mindful that your decisions and actions are constantly being scrutinized. What you and your peers might view as a liberty or entitlement could bring upon an investigation resulting from an allegation of abuse of authority. To understand your vulnerabilities, you must recognize how easily an investigation can commence. Executives, managers and supervisors in federal agencies are often afforded a great deal of leeway and discretion in making personnel decisions about their own personal matters (i.e., time and attendance, travel schedules, use of government property, etc.). However, be careful not to take advantage of this discretion and be mindful that your decisions and actions are constantly being scrutinized. What you and your peers might view as a liberty or entitlement could bring upon an investigation resulting from an allegation of abuse of authority.

To understand your vulnerabilities, you must recognize how easily an investigation can commence. Allegations of wrongdoing could stem from a disgruntled subordinate, jealous colleague or even someone you think is on your side. Motivations for the allegations could be agenda driven or based on uninformed assumptions. Whatever the case, when the federal government puts you under the investigative microscope-whether it is the OIG or some other investigative entity such as the OSC-could your actions or inactions withstand rigorous scrutiny?

For example, most executives and managers work above the normal forty hour work week and are not compensated for this extra work. In such environments, it is easy to feel you are entitled to leave early and not claim leave-or even take a day off under the umbrella of "comp" time. Without supervisory approval, this can result in an administrative or even criminal investigation. Selected examples include:

  • Not claiming sick leave when you should and other time and attendance irregularities;
  • Preselecting or otherwise manipulating the hiring process in violation of the merit principles;
  • Using employees to perform personal tasks;
  • Manipulating official travel schedules to coincide with personal travel plans;
  • Claiming Per Diem when you are not entitled (i.e., when meals are provided at the event);
  • Using government property (i.e., GOVs, computers, cell phones, etc.) in excess of the personal use policies; and
  • Accepting gifts from subordinates.

Federal managers are often unaware of the seriousness of investigations into abuse of authority or misuse of position. Whether your action is intentional or unintentional, you need to remain cognizant of the fact you will be held accountable for even the most trivial or justifiable misuse or abuse of authority or violation of agency policy.

If you become the subject of an investigation alleging abuse of authority, remember you have rights. If you are being asked to answer a few questions, find out if you are compelled to answer or if it is voluntary. If you have your profesional liability insurance policy up to date, call your carrier immediately and ask to be assigned an attorney. Do not submit to questioning of any kind until speaking with your attorney.

When it matters to federally employed managers - it matters to FEDS.

For more information on your specific exposures, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, please visit the FEDS website and choose the Executives and Managers tab.

Posted in Manager Matters

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