2009.11.08: Guidance to Regional Recruiting Offices on Working with RPCV Groups

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By Admin1 (admin) (98.188.147.225) on Thursday, November 05, 2009 - 6:22 pm: Edit Post

Guidance to Regional Recruiting Offices on Working with RPCV Groups

Guidance to Regional Recruiting Offices on Working with RPCV Groups

When the RPCV activity is directly related to a Peace Corps program, activity or official purpose, the Peace Corps may use its facilities, funds, and employees' time to support that activity.


Guidance to Regional Recruiting Offices on Working with RPCV Groups

Guidance to Regional Recruiting Offices on Working with RPCV Groups

This guidance addresses the following issues:

A. RPCV Use of Peace Corps Space,

B. Peace Corps Staff Attendance at RPCV Fundraising Events and

C. Distribution of RPCV Materials at Events.

The guidance is in two parts:

I. A simple and brief overview and

II. A legal executive summary that was presented by Peace Corps'

Office of the General Counsel to senior agency management. The guidance is a summary and is not intended to serve as a substitute for seeking additional guidance or legal advice whenever there is uncertainty or doubt about a particular activity.

I.

A. Use of Peace Corps Space by RPCV Organizations:

When the RPCV activity is directly related to a Peace Corps program, activity or official purpose, the Peace Corps may use its facilities, funds, and employees' time to support that activity.

o Example An RPCV-Peace Corps co-sponsored educational event to attract potential Volunteers to Peace Corps.

Peace Corps may provide limited use of space to the RPCV organization for non-Peace Corps activities.

o Example An RPCV organization committee meeting following the educational event described above, provided the committee's agenda does not involve fundraising, partisan political activity or other activities prohibited on federal property.

B. Attendance of Peace Corps Staff at RPCV Fundraising Events:

Attending and participating in RPCV organization fundraising events in an official capacity. Fundraising includes solicitation of funds, sale of Peace Corps items and situations where any part of the cost of attendance can be a charitable deduction.

What a staff member may do:

o Attendance: Staff members may attend (except for political fundraisers) as long as their attendance is not used to promote the event.

o Speeches: Staff may give official speeches at these events. An "official speech" is a legal term which means a speech by an employee in his/her official capacity that relates to his/her official duties, including topics related to Peace Corps' programs, policies, operations and responsibilities.

What a staff member may not do:

o Solicit contributions or memberships,

o Assist in the sale of items,

o Stand in reception lines,

o Sit at head table (unless such seating is arranged based on the employee's responsibilities for providing an official speech),

o Serve as chair persons or otherwise actively participate in the fundraising event, or

o Promote or advertise the event.

Attending and participating in RPCV organization fundraising events in a personal capacity: Employees may attend fundraising events in their personal capacities and actively participate, provided that they do so on their own time and do not use their Peace Corps office, title, authority or position in connection with such activities. Employees need to be mindful of appearance concerns as well. For example, an appearance of misuse of public office can be as serious as actual misuse. Seek ethics advice whenever in doubt.

C. Distribution of Materials by RPCV Organizations:

On Peace Corps property: This may not be done unless the materials are distributed as part of an official Peace Corps activity.

Outside Peace Corps property and co-sponsored by Peace Corps: Materials may be distributed but must exclude fundraising, lobbying, or partisan political materials.

o Note: Membership materials are considered fundraising materials. However, membership materials can be distributed outside the room being used for the event.

o Outside Peace Corps property and sponsored exclusively by RPCV organization: Distribution of materials is up to the organizations, but the Peace Corps staff member should not attend, in an official capacity, if partisan political materials are being distributed. Peace Corps staff should be assuring attendees as appropriate that official Peace Corps decisions are not linked to the RPCV organization's materials.

II.

Issue A

May Peace Corps permit RPCV organizations to conduct activities on official Peace Corps property?

(1) Official Use. Where the activity of an organization is directly related to a Peace Corps program, activity or official purpose, e.g., recruitment of volunteers, the Peace Corps may use its facilities, as well as its funds and employees' time, to support that activity. For example, if a regional RPCV group, in consultation and coordination with Peace Corps, is hosting a nonfundraising educational event to attract potential Volunteers to Peace Corps, the activity may be conducted on Peace Corps property.

(2) Incidental Use. In addition to activities that are directly related to Peace Corps purposes, the Peace Corps may provide limited, or incidental, use of agency facilities in support of civic and charitable activities. By incidental, we mean that the collective expenditure of time and resources remains prudent and insubstantial. The amount of time and resources expended for a particular activity can vary depending on the connection between the organization and the Peace Corps. Generally, the purpose and activities of RPCV organizations and the relationship between Peace Corps and these organizations would justify greater discretion in allowing use of Peace Corps space by RPVC organizations. Any use of facilities must comply with General Services Administration (GSA) regulations on conduct on federal property (e.g., prohibition on political activity, lobbying, fundraising and dissemination and posting of flyers, handbills and pamphlets, unless the dissemination is part of an official activity).

Issue B

May Peace Corps recruiters and other staff attend and participate in RPCV fundraising events in their official capacity?

1. Definition of "fundraiser." A "fundraising event" includes not only those involving direct solicitations and/or sale of items but also events for which any portion of the cost of attendance or participation may be taken as a charitable tax deduction by the person incurring the cost.

2. Mere attendance at a fundraiser. Staff members may, in their official capacity, attend fundraising events (not political fundraisers, of course) hosted by RPCV organizations, provided that, to the employee's knowledge, their attendance is not used by the organization to promote the event.

3. Official speeches at fundraisers. In addition to mere attendance, a staff member may deliver an official speech at a fundraising event, and may accept seating appropriate to that purpose, including possibly sitting at the head table. An "official speech" is a speech by an employee in his/her official capacity that relates to his/her official duties, including topics related to Peace Corps' programs, policies, operations and responsibilities.

4. Non-permissible activities at fundraisers. Staff may not solicit contributions or memberships, assist in the sale of items, stand in reception lines, sit at the head table (other than as seating appropriate to an "official speech"), serve as chair persons or co-chairs, or otherwise actively and visibly participate in the fundraising event, when such activity is performed in their official capacity. Nor may they promote or advertise the event.

Issue C

May an RPCV group distribute or disseminate information to attendees and/or solicit membership during events co-sponsored by Peace Corps, or sponsored exclusively by an RPCV organization?

1. In the workplace. If the event is on Peace Corps property, the dissemination of such material can only be done in connection with an official Peace Corps activity. GSA regulations prohibit not only solicitations by outside organizations but also dissemination of any pamphlets, handbills or flyers. RPCV groups may not solicit membership on Peace Corps property.

2. Not on Peace Corps property and co-sponsored. If the event is not on Peace Corps property but is being co-sponsored by Peace Corps, no fundraising materials, lobbying materials, partisan political materials, or other similar materials may be disseminated. If the materials are not these kinds of materials, they may be disseminated but it is recommended that Peace Corps staff in attendance take measures to ensure attendees that Peace Corps is neither encouraging nor discouraging attendees' support for the substance and purpose of the materials, when that is the case. Peace Corps also needs to assure persons that official decisions on recruitment, selection, placement and other matters are not linked to the substance and purpose of RPCV group's materials.

3. Not on Peace Corps property and not co-sponsored. If the event is not on Peace Corps property and the event is sponsored exclusively by the RPCV group, the RPCV group may distribute materials. (Peace Corps staff should not attend in an official capacity if partisan political materials are being disseminated.) However, it is recommended that Peace Corps staff in attendance take measures to assure attendees that Peace Corps is not encouraging nor discouraging attendees' support for the substance and purpose of the materials, when that is the case. Peace Corps needs to assure persons that official decisions on recruitment, selection, placement and other matters are not linked to the substance and purpose of RPCV group's materials.




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Headlines: November, 2009; Peace Corps Headquarters; Law; Local Groups; Country of Service Groups; National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)





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