Fill career positions with care in election year, OPM advises

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry OPM photo
John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, sent a memo Friday to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies reminding them that all personnel appointments during a presidential election year must “remain free of political influence or other improprieties and meet all relevant civil service laws, rules and regulations.”

Berry emphasized that appointments of Schedule C employees -- who are subject to change at the discretion of the new administration -- and noncareer Senior Executive Service members to competitive or nonpolitical-excepted service positions or to career SES positions should comply with all merit principles regarding fair and open competition.

Mostly, these are not new guidelines for federal agencies. “It has been OPM policy since the Carter administration and under every president since to ensure that politics play no role when agencies select current or former political appointees for career federal jobs,” Berry said in the memo.

OPM has enacted new policy since the last presidential election, however. As of January 2010, the agency conducts all its prehiring reviews on a continual basis, rather than limiting the reviews to the year leading up to a presidential election. Also, OPM now reviews the proposed hiring of current or former political appointees for jobs in the excepted service as well as the competitive service, according to the memo.

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