Can feds, contractors be friends?

A Reader Writes:

Is there a written instruction documenting how government contractors and government employees must act around each other?

I was a contractor and am now a federal employee (staying in the same office). Suddenly my supervisor is telling me about these rules, like not riding in a car with a contractor, that I am supposed to follow.

Because I made friends with several other contractors and I happen to be married to a government contractor, I am finding these "rules" very restrictive and confusing.

While I was a contractor, nothing was ever said about an "employee" riding with me in my vehicle, but now that I am an "employee," I'm not allowed to take a co-worker, who is a contractor, in my vehicle. Could you shed some light on this for me?

Milt Replies:

You may be able to obtain information from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) at www.usoge.gov.

However, this agency issues broad guidelines and leaves it to individual agencies to interpret them. What it boils down to is that if there is a question of propriety, like the one you mentioned, ask your supervisor to put his or her instructions to you in writing.

If you feel that will upset your supervisor, talk to your agency ethics adviser — every agency must have one. Also, consult the following publications, both available from OGE:

* "A Brief Wrap on Ethics" (PDF).

* "Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch."

A Reader Writes:

About this time of year, we hear that Congress wants to retire all personnel under the Civil Service Retirement System. Do you think Congress will ever come up with a plan to do it?

Milt Replies:

In short, no.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at milt.zall@verizon.net.

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