Athens, GA (May 2, 2008) - I have not thought of Joe Band, or even seen him with his dark eyeglasses, since I moved south from Washington, DC 14 years ago yesterday. Now it seems he is all over the sports news for allegedly arranging for a couple of U.S. Marshals to provide transportation to and from Fenway Park for Tim McCarver and Joe Back during last year's World Series. People are commenting in the sports pages and in the blogosphere, wondering what the big deal is and why all the attention?
What people need to understand is that there are clear ethical rules associated with federal government employment, especially for people in "positions of trust". The only reason I got to know Joe during my stay in Washington was because once a year I filled out a request for approval to work at Washington Redskins games for the various networks. If I did not have the approval and got "caught", I would have faced some sort of discipline (which could include termination).
While what happened in the case being investigated by the Inspector General at the U.S. Marshal Service may seem minor, it is the appearance of impropriety that raises eyebrows. If the allegations are true, resources were used for reasons not legally allowed in the federal appropriations that fund the U. S. Marshals. If Joe was not at the game working for Fox, but made these arrangements so he could see the game in person, he could be in a heap of trouble for violation of 5 CFR 2635.702:
What is most surprising is that Joe is an attorney for the agency, and if the allegations are true, should have known better. Indeed he may have, and it is possible that the escort was cleared by the U.S. Marshals Ethics Officer before it was approved. If it was, the investigation will be quickly closed and this will have been much ado about nothing . Well except for any appearance of impropriety.An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the
endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain
of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a
nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the
employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee
has or seeks employment or business relations. The specific prohibitions
set forth in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section apply this general
standard, but are not intended to be exclusive or to limit the application
of this section.
It is not unusual to try and get police escorts after a game, especially at venues where the roads are limited and flights need to be caught. Fenway Park is one of these venues and it would not be realistic to ask McCarver and Buck to ride the T with a bunch of drunken Red Sox fans. But there could have been other alternatives available.
I am willing to give Joe the benefit of the doubt here as these are currently only allegations. If they are proven to be true, I can only respond with "Say it ain't so, Joe!"