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The Passing of the Honorable Stephen D. Potts, former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics

December 17, 2019

It is with great sadness that the Office of Government Ethics shares with the ethics community the passing of its former Director, the Honorable Stephen D. Potts. He was an extraordinary public servant whose legacy touches our work every day. 

Director Potts was appointed by President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990, and re-appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton in 1995. His 10 years of service make him the longest serving Director in OGE’s history.

A survey of the Office of Government Ethics’ accomplishments under Director Potts’ leadership reads like the operating manual for today’s ethics program. During his decade as OGE’s director, OGE established the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, the regulations for both public and confidential financial disclosure systems, the criminal conflict of interest regulation, the first executive branch-wide ethics training regulation, and the first OGE website. 

Director Potts also understood that the threat of corruption crossed borders and could threaten global stability. To help governments fight corruption, he expanded OGE’s international activities and established the office as a global expert in the prevention of conflicts of interest. 

Director Potts was a champion for ethics officials throughout the executive branch. He understood that preventing conflicts of interest requires the help of the ethics officials serving in each executive branch agency. Upon his retirement from OGE, Britanya Rapp, then Designated Agency Ethics Official at the Corporation for National and Community Service, wrote:

Some individuals acquire the title “Honorable” because they were appointed to high-level positions. You were not only appointed to such a position, but you also embody all that the term signifies. Through the years, I have found you to always be guided by a high sense of honor and duty -- or as further defined by Webster’s . . . “characterized by integrity.”. . .

Director Potts was a great public servant, a strong leader of the executive branch ethics community, and a global force in the fight against corruption. And so it is with sadness, but also gratitude and admiration, that we say goodbye to the Honorable Stephen D. Potts.