Tim Oravec (l), Albany Field Office
shakes hands with HUD Deputy
Secretary Roy A. Bernardi.
September, 2005 - HUD Council of Locals 222 Region 2 Regional Vice President Timothy Oravec was not only instrumental in getting this MOU developed and signed, he is also compiling a database of activities that have been approved and denied throughout the nation. Tim's national database will be an invaluable tool to track requests and assure that employees throughout the nation receive equal treatment in their requests for approval. Employees are asked to provide Tim with a copy of their request for administrative leave after their approval or denial by management. This below FAQ is not comprehensive, but addresses issues that have already been raised. If you have a question that is not answered below regarding the Volunteer Activity MOU, you may contact Tim Oravec, Region II RVP at: timothy_j._Oravec@hud.gov. Tim also is compiling a database of activities that have been approved throughout the nation. Your activity may be on this database.
Is there a form I can use to submit my request for Volunteer activity? Yes. A form (unofficial) was developed that can help both the employee and supervisor with any reques. Click on the volunteer request form link in right hand column.
Is there a list of activities that CANNOT be included in this MOU? There is no list of approved or disapproved activities. This was done purposely in the MOU signed by the Assistant Secretary, as to not limit what is/is not allowable. Every volunteer activity has the possibility to fit with this program, unless prohibited by Statute or Regulation.
Does my volunteer activity have to be funded directly by HUD? This is one of the misconceptions that is going around. And NO, volunteer activities do not have to be directly funded by HUD. Few, if any, organizations get funding directly from HUD. What a requesting employee should focus on is #2 of the MOU - "Required Criteria". This is pretty open ended, especially the 2nd and 4th criteria. When requesting time, the write up could make a link to "the best interests of HUD", and/or any program or activity which a city or town MAY support under CDBG. Notice that it does not say that it does, but MAY. Also, volunteer activities are not only related to CDBG.
Does my volunteer activity have to satisfy all of the 4 requirements stated in the MOU? No. The MOU states that the Volunteer activity must meet (one) 1 of the (four) 4 items listed by in OPM's guidance. For example, if an employee is requesting time to work on behalf of the Salvation Army (i.e. a rummage/book sale, etc.), they may research HUD's partnership with the Salvation Army. http://www.HUD.gov shows that HUD has numerous partnership's with the Salvation Army, and therefore this is acceptable.
Does this affect the Adopt A School section of the contract in any way? No. The adopt a school program is not effected by the MOU. The MOU merely expands the types of volunteer activities for which administrative lleave can be used.
How can we have a more definitive answer to activities? I mean, can an employee help out at school no matter what the activity? If an activity violates current statute or regulation then it is not allowed. I have heard of someone being denied who requested to work the polling place on election day.
What about Church sponsored activities? Volunteer activities can be associated with any HUD initiative or interest. Let's look at church related activities. HUD has a faith based initiative. Therefore, if a church, or religious organization MAY be associated with HUD (through the faith based initiative), it's common sense to believe that it would be allowable. Again, you should keep in mind the activity. For example, if the activity is visiting shut-ins or the sick, working in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, etc., this could be allowed. However, proselytizing for a religious organization is a tougher call. You need to be creative and smart, and above all truthful, in your request.
How can I find out if my volunteer activity is allowable? If a connection is not obvious, you can use HUD.gov to research your volunteer requests. Use the Search option and type in a keyword that is related to the requested activity. See what comes up. If there are links to items on HUD.gov, a good case can often be made that the activity is in HUD's interest, and therefore allowable.
What if I am denied volunteer time? A/S Bernardi has stated in his September 13, 2005 press release that "This agreement speaks to how deeply committed the HUD family is when it comes to giving of themselves." "So many of our employees are answering the call to volunteer and we want to do everything we can to encourage this spirit of giving." Unfortunately, not every manager has this frame of mind and some will find ways to deny your request, rather than find a way to approve it. If you have done your research and made all of the necessary points in your request or others have been approved and are doing the same volunteer work, yet you are still denied, you may need to contact your Union representative to file a grievance. The Union will be able to put you in touch with a representative that has extensive knowledge of this subject and will take action on the behalf of you or your office.
What if I have already been denied admin time for volunteer work, and took my personal leave to volunteer? If you feel you have been denied unjustly, you should submit a request for "restored" leave. Especially if you have done your research and made all of the necessary points in your request or others have been approved and are doing the same volunteer work. If you still denied, you should contact the Union.
Do Managers have to run every request for volunteer duty through the Regional Ethics Officer to make sure there is not a conflict of interest? No. Before the MOU was signed it was reviewed by the HUD Counsel's office. They approved it and A/S Bernardi signed it. When volunteering on or off the clock, HUD employees are responsible to make sure that no ethics rules are violated. This is no different than it has ever been. One way to make this go easier is to include a brief statement on the employees request regarding ethics issues (i.e. If I am volunteering with the local Boys/Girl's Club, I could state that "the Boy's/Girl's club has no dealings with HUD other than...."). If the employee's request is comprehensive, addresses ethics concerns (or lack thereof) and management still wants to run it through Region, I would consider filing a grievance. Possible volunteer "pitfalls": If you are granted Admin time via the MOU, you must make sure you actually do what you have requested. The easiest way for this program to fall flat is for management to point out abuses. This is not a "day off". If you request a certain amount of time for an activity, you should make sure that you do it. If you can't, you should report to work, or take personal leave. Remember, you're still on HUD time when performing any volunteer activity granted under the MOU.