Frequently Asked Questions
Conflict of Interest Basics
WHAT CONSTITUTES AN APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
An apparent conflict exists when a reasonable person would conclude from the circumstances that the employee’s ability to protect the public interest, or perform public duties, is compromised by a personal, financial, or business interest. An actual or apparent conflict can exist even in the absence of a legal conflict of interest.
WHAT IS A CONFLICT OF COMMITMENT?
A conflict of commitment exists when an employee’s outside occupation, pursuit or endeavor interferes with the regular and punctual discharge of the employee’s official duties.
WHY IS COMPLIANCE WITH CONFLICTS OF INTEREST POLICIES SO IMPORTANT?
Compliance with COI policies is important to protect the integrity and reputation of both the USG and the individual employee. The public has a reasonable expectation that USG employees will be independent and impartial in all USG-related matters and that public office will not be used for private gain other than that allowed by law.
CAN SOME POTENTIAL CONFLICTS BE MANAGED?
Yes, some potential conflicts naturally follow from successful academic research, collaboration and commercialization. The first step is disclosure. A COI management plan can be designed to manage, reduce or eliminate potential COI.
WHAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF A CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
Conflicts of interest arise in many ways but generally can be defined as instances where an employee has competing interests or loyalties that are, or potentially could be, at odds with the interest of the USG. These conflicts most often arise when personal economic interests are in conflict with an employee’s duties to the USG. Self-dealing is an example of a conflict of interest and occurs when an employee enters into an agreement with a vendor or 3rd party which benefits the employee personally. This could include an employee selecting a vendor which is partially owned by the employee or an employee who selects a vendor who leases office space from the employee.
WHAT IS AN EXAMPLE OF A CONFLICT OF COMMITMENT?
Conflicts of commitment arise in many ways but generally are the result of an over-commitment to a compensated outside activity that interferes with the regular and punctual discharge of that employee’s official duties. A specific example would be working all night on a compensated outside activity such that the employee cannot fulfill work responsibilities and commitments made for the following morning or improperly directing other employee’s or students to perform tasks reasonably expected to be completed by the conflicted employee.
CAN USG EMPLOYEES ACCEPT HONORARIA?
Non-faculty employees may not receive Honoraria, as defined in Board policy, for activities during the employee’s work hours. Honoraria for non-faculty employees may be allowed if the appropriate leave is taken and other policy requirements are met regarding compensated outside activities.
CAN I WORK PART-TIME FOR A COMPANY OR VENDOR AT MY INSTITUTION?
USG employees are generally prohibited from consulting or otherwise receiving compensation from a current USG vendor, or an entity seeking a vendor relationship, at that employee’s institution or at the System Office (for System Office employees). Exceptions to this provision may be granted by the institution President or designee under circumstances where the employee requesting authorization does not supervise, regularly interact with, or participate in the selection of that vendor for the employee’s institution. Exceptions for University System Office employees and USG Presidents may be granted by the Chancellor or designee. This prohibition does not apply to vendor or service relationships between the USG and other government entities.
Approval for Outside Activities / Side Jobs / Consulting
WHAT KIND OF OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES NEED APPROVAL?
Approval for an Outside Activity is required if the Outside Activity meets both of these requirements:
- The outside activity relates to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee; and
- The employee is compensated for the Outside Activity.
Such activities include consulting, teaching, speaking, and participating in business, professional, or service enterprises.
DO I NEED APPROVAL IF I AM A PART-TIME EMPLOYEE?
USG employees, with a work commitment of less than 30 hours per week and faculty members on a contract term of less than nine months a year do not need written approval in advance of engaging in compensated outside activities so long as the outside activity does not create a conflict of interest or otherwise violate Board policy. Part time employees are still required to abide by the Board’s conflict of interest policy and the Ethics Policy. For example, a part-time employee who works less than 30 hours per week would be prohibited from participating in a USG vendor-selection process in which a firm they owned was under consideration.
DO I NEED APPROVAL FOR VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES?
No. Employees do not need approval to participate in volunteer activities or compensated outside activities that do not relate to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee. The Board of Regent’s Conflict of Interest Policy, however, still applies, and USG employees should ensure unpaid and volunteer activities do not create an actual or apparent conflict of interest or otherwise violate Board of Regents policy.
DO I NEED APPROVAL FOR SIDE JOBS AND COMPENSATED OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES THAT TAKE PLACE AFTER WORK AND ON WEEKENDS?
It depends. Employees need advance written approval if the consulting, side job or outside activity meets both of the following conditions: 1) the employee is paid or receives compensation for the side job, consulting or outside activity, and 2) the side job, consulting or outside activity relates to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee. If the above two criteria are met, then the employee needs advance written authorization to engage in the side job, consulting or outside activity regardless of when the outside activity takes place.
DO I NEED TO TAKE LEAVE WHEN WORKING SIDE JOBS OR OTHERWISE ENGAGING IN COMPENSATED OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES?
Yes. Except as authorized for eligible faculty as provided in BOR 126.96.36.199.4, appropriate leave must be used by each USG employee for compensated outside activities during the employee’s work hours consistent with the USG procedures governing the use of leave. Approved leave under these circumstances would include annual leave and compensatory leave.
HOW DOES AN EMPLOYEE DETERMINE IF A COMPENSATED OUTSIDE ACTIVITY RELATES TO THE EMPLOYEE’S EXPERTISE OR RESPONSIBILITIES AS A USG EMPLOYEE?
The application of this policy, like many other policies, requires some level of judgement. If you are unsure if the compensated outside activity requires approval, then written authorization should be requested. Factors to consider would include a comparison of the outside position to the employee’s position at the USG to include the required level of education, responsibilities, expertise expected of the person holding the position, certifications and training required, and tasks performed. Examples are provided below:
Example 1: USG Internal Auditor A USG Internal Auditor wants to start a side business preparing tax returns for non-employees on nights and weekends for which he would receive payment. The employee’s USG responsibilities include reviewing USG financial statements and tax records. Conclusion: The side business relates to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee and written authorization would be needed prior to engaging in the compensated outside activity.
Example 2: USG Grounds Supervisor A USG Grounds Supervisor wants to start a side business doing landscape work. The USG employee supervises employees who do this work for the USG and also is responsible for the equipment used to complete the landscaping work. Conclusion: The side business relates to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee and written authorization would be needed prior to engaging in the compensated outside activity.
Example 3: USG Music Professor A USG Music Professor wants to consult for pay with a local music store to hire, train, and establish a for-profit teaching program. The USG employee’s responsibilities include training students in music and evaluating faculty employment applicants. Conclusion: The consulting relates to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee and written authorization would be needed prior to engaging in the compensated outside activity.
Example 4: USG Faculty Advisor A USG Faculty Advisor wants to give back to youth by creating a for-profit club volleyball program that will compete locally and nationwide. The club volleyball program will not use institutional resources or facilities. The Faculty Advisor may receive pay for these activities once the club volleyball program is established. The club volleyball program will receive payment for clinics and membership on a team. The USG Registrar does not work with a USG institution’s volleyball team. Conclusion: The USG employee would not need authorization to start this for-profit volleyball program as it does not relate to the employee’s expertise or responsibilities as a USG employee.
HOW DO I GET APPROVAL?
Employees at USG Institutions
Employees should follow the approval process established by their institution.
USG Presidents may obtain approval to participate in compensated outside activities by completing and submitting this form to the USG Office of Ethics and Compliance at the contact information listed below. The USG Office of Ethics and Compliance will review the information in consultation with the USG Office of Legal Affairs and will note any concerns. Final approval for compensated outside activities for USG Presidents will be made by the Chancellor.
USG Office of Ethics & Compliance
Direct Reports of USG Presidents and Those with a Title of Vice President or Equivalent
Direct reports to USG Presidents and those with a Title of Vice President or Equivalent seeking to participate in compensated outside activities must first obtain the appropriate campus level authorization. Once campus level approval has been obtained, this form should be completed and submitted to the USG Office of Ethics and Compliance, at the contact information listed below. Final approval for compensated outside activities for direct reports of a USG President and those with a title of Vice President or equivalent will be made by the appropriate USG President.
USG Office of Ethics & Compliance
University System Office Employees
University System Office Employees may obtain approval to participate in compensated outside activities by completing and submitting this form through your supervisor to the USG Office of Ethics and Compliance at the contact information listed below.
USG Office of Ethics & Compliance
Please see the Outside Activity Approval Process page for a list of approval forms.
Faculty Consulting, Secondary Responsibilities, Compensated Outside Activities
DO I NEED APPROVAL TO PARTICIPATE IN FACULTY SECONDARY RESPONSIBILITIES?
USG employees should follow the procedures established at their institution for participation in faculty secondary responsibilities. Faculty secondary responsibilities include professional activities or affiliations traditionally undertaken by faculty outside of the immediate institution employment context but where the faculty member represents the institution and his or her affiliation to it. Secondary Responsibilities may or may not entail the receipt of Honoraria, remuneration, or the reimbursement of expenses.
IS AN HONORARIUM RECEIVED FOR FACULTY SECONDARY RESPONSIBILITIES COMPENSATION?
USG employees should follow the procedures established at their institution to determine whether or not an honorarium is considered compensation. USG employees should know that for purposes of the BOR Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment and Outside Activities policy, an Honoraria is defined as any payments given for professional or voluntary services that are rendered nominally without charge, and any payment in recognition of these services typically forbids a price to be set. See also, Board Policy 188.8.131.52 Gratuities for guidance on accepting expense reimbursement from outside parties.
IS THE REIMBURSEMENT OF REASONABLE TRAVEL EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH SECONDARY RESPONSIBILITIES CONSIDERED COMPENSATION?
No. The reasonable reimbursement of travel expenses associated with Faculty Secondary Responsibilities are generally not considered compensation. USG employees are directed to their institution’s procedures for any required reviews. See also, Board Policy 184.108.40.206 Gratuities for guidance on accepting expense reimbursement from outside parties.