NPS Partnerships Ethics
The encouragement by the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior to partner effectively always carries the condition that we are aware of, and act within, our legal authorities, regulations, and ethics do's and don'ts. Ethics issues are more likely to arise in partnerships with private sector partners where we have less familiarity. Key ethics issues related to partnerships include: statutory provisions, appearance of conflict of interest, lobbying activities, accepting gifts, fundraising activities, charitable contributions, and appearance of business or product endorsements.
NPS employees are governed by ethics regulations which prohibit Federal employees without specific statutory authority, from using their official title, position, or any authority associated with their public office to ask for funds in a private fundraising effort. NPS employees will not use their positions in ways that might imply an endorsement of a commercial product, service, or enterprise. The NPS may publicly thank a donor that has supported the NPS mission, and endorse those fundraising activities of a NPS partner subject to an approved fundraising agreement with the NPS. However, care must be exercised to ensure that such an endorsement does not imply a direct solicitation from the NPS.
The NPS will not accept funds donated from organizations in which an NPS employee is an officer, a board member (including ex-officio) or is otherwise engaged in a leadership or coordinating role with the organization, unless the arrangement has been reviewed and approved by a Department of the Interior Solicitor and a Departmental Ethics Officer. This does not preclude NPS employees from carrying out their official role as coordinator under the applicable agreement with the NPS partner.
While we can and should consult ethics officers/counselors as appropriate, and especially when we get into gray areas, it is important to have a basic understanding of government ethics regarding various partnerships activities.