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    Frequently Asked Questions::Can any awards be given to political appointees during a Presidential election period?

    Can any awards be given to political appointees during a Presidential election period?

    In the legislative history and other documents that led to the legislation at section 4508 of title 5, United States Code, that bans the granting of awards to political appointees during a Presidential election period, the subject under discussion was clearly limited to "bonuses" or awards with principally a monetary value. There is no evidence that the prohibition was intended to include awards that are primarily honorary in nature (i.e., that do not grant cash). Therefore, the Office of Personnel Management interprets both the law and its accompanying regulation to prohibit any cash award and any other bonus delivered under the cover of a nonmonetary award, i.e., any award with an apparent value that is more monetary than honorific. Applying this interpretation, award categories are treated as follows:

    Cash Awards—The ban on awards (i.e., performance awards, special act or service awards, etc.) that take the form of cash is absolute for political appointees during a Presidential election period. Under no circumstances may a political appointee receive an award in the form of cash, including any honorarium or stipend that may be associated with an agency honorary award.

    Time-Off Awards—Because a time-off award is ultimately delivered in the form of pay for time not worked, it must be construed in this context as tantamount to a cash award. Consequently, the ban on time-off awards is absolute. For the purposes of section 451.105(a) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, a time-off award is considered "received" when it is granted. Under no circumstances may a political appointee receive a time-off award during a Presidential election period.

    Honorary Awards and Informal Recognition Awards— Honorary awards and informal recognition awards may take a wide variety of forms with a wide variance in monetary value, both in terms of direct cost and the appearance of such value. The Office of Personnel Management concluded that an agency may grant a political appointee an honorary or informal recognition award during a Presidential election period, provided that the form of the honorary award avoids the appearance of replacing a bonus. Agencies must exercise good judgment in selecting honorific items. Such items should create the inherent impression of symbolic value (an honor being bestowed) rather than monetary worth (cash value). For example, presenting a commemorative photograph or a certificate in a simple, inexpensive frame would be appropriate, but presenting an expensive crystal carafe would not be.

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