SECTION: PERSONNEL INDEX C-8
SUBJECT: EMPLOYEE STANDARDS OF CONDUCT

POLICY

Employees of the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) are public servants and have a responsibility to the public in the performance of official duties. Federal and state law, together with growing scrutiny of the complex relationships between public institutions and outside public and private organizations and individuals, necessitate the clarification of standards of accountability for public servants. Requirements for ethical behavior are especially important in public institutions of higher education; university employees are accountable to taxpayers for the use of public funds and also have the responsibility to lead and educate university students by example.

The purpose of this policy is to ensure that employees are informed of their responsibilities for accountability and ethical conduct and that any potential conflict is reviewed and reported in accordance with state and federal law and University of Houston System Board of Regents Policies. This policy applies to all university employees, with certain reporting requirements for specific groups as noted.

University employees shall promptly disclose to their supervisor any substantiated information regarding what they believe to constitute a violation of this policy or any law or institutional policy.

Failure to comply with the provisions of this policy may subject the employee to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, as well as to the possibility of criminal action.

DEFINITIONS

Benefit: Anything reasonably regarded by an independent observer as providing monetary gain or advantage. For the purposes of this policy, a benefit shall include, but is not limited to monetary gifts, meals, employment, travel, or items of significant gain or advantage with a value of $50 or more. When the appropriateness of a benefit is in question, it should not be accepted.

Bribery: A university employee commits the criminal offense of bribery if the employee solicits, offers, or accepts any benefit in exchange for a decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion by the employee.

Conflict of Interest: A situation in which there is a divergence between the employee's private interests and the employee's professional obligations to the university (i.e. the public interest) such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the employee's actions or decisions are determined by considerations of private gain, financial or otherwise, to the university's detriment.

Conflict of Commitment: A situation in which an employee's outside activities interfere with the employee's primary commitment of time and intellectual energies to the university, or in which a full-time employee's primary professional loyalty is not to UHV. The general permitted limit to external commitments for faculty is one day per calendar week, never to conflict with the employee's scheduled classes or other duties and responsibilities.

Consulting and outside employment: For the purposes of this policy, activities undertaken for remuneration from a third party when the activity is within the scope of activities, functions, or expertise for which the individual is compensated by the university. This definition does not include unpaid public service or lectures for fees, unless these activities require significant amounts of time or otherwise adversely affect the employee's performance of university duties.

Honoraria: A payment for speech, lecture, or other services on which, by custom or agreement, a specific price may not be set. For the purposes of this policy, this definition includes any payment from an outside entity for services such as making a speech, teaching a class or workshop, or providing consulting services.

Immediate family: Includes spouse and dependent children. Children, for the purposes of this document, include adopted, step, and foster children, as well as natural sons and daughters.

Related-party interest: A business or personal relationship that exists between a university employee and an outside individual or organization that may influence the employee's actions or decisions due to considerations of private benefit - financial or otherwise - and/or may create or be perceived as creating a conflict of interest.

Significant financial interest: Anything of monetary value including, but not limited to salary, other payments for services (e.g., consulting fees or honoraria); equity interests (e.g., stocks, stock options, or other ownership interests); and intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, copyrights, and royalties from such rights) that, when aggregated with immediate family:

STANDARD OF CONDUCT GUIDELINES

University employees have a responsibility to the public in the performance of their official duties. High institutional and personal standards of conduct must be maintained to fulfill that responsibility. These standards must include avoiding any actions that would create the appearance of violation of laws or ethical principles

UHV employees shall avoid using their positions for purposes that are, or give the appearance of being motivated by a desire for private gain for themselves or others, such as those with whom they have family, business, or other ties. University employees shall exercise the utmost good faith in all transactions, activities, and behaviors related to their duties to the university and its property and resources. The principles of good faith and honest dealing apply to all aspects of the employee's responsibilities and activities on the part of the university, not just those identified in this policy as subject to particular statutes or causes for particular concern.

Prior to entering into any consulting, investment, professional, or other arrangement that may involve a conflict of interest or commitment, a faculty or exempt employee must submit to the appropriate supervisor a complete written disclosure of the pending relationship and any potential conflicts that it may involve. The subsequent arrangements will then be subject to the approval of the appropriate Cabinet-level supervisor. When a question of propriety of the proposed employment or business relationship exists, the supervisor shall submit the application to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost (for faculty) or Vice President for Administration (for staff). These procedures apply to all regular faculty and exempt staff and to non-exempt staff with procurement or research responsibilities.

In accordance with Board of Regents Policy 57.05, any outside employment of the Chancellor, other officers of the System Administration, or the President or vice presidents of any component, including serving on the board of directors or governing board of any outside organization, shall be approved in advance by the Board of Regents.

The only gifts and benefits not subject to this restriction are those conferred on account of kinship or a personal or professional relationship independent of employee's status, non-cash items of less than $50.00 in value, and those used solely to defray expenses accrued in the performance of official duties that are not reimbursable by the university.

However, whether the transaction or relationship creates a conflict of interest requires a subjective evaluation of the facts and circumstances. All faculty and staff in a position to originate purchase requests or influence purchasing decisions must annually complete a disclosure statement.

Although the University of Houston System depends upon the integrity and discretion of its staff with respect to actual or apparent conflict of interest, all University of Houston System employees are subject to the prohibitions of state law and applicable federal guidelines. Guidelines to avoid conflict of interest include the following:

University employees are required and expected to take the initiative to disclose and request prior approval of their supervisor before entering into any activity or situation that may involve, or appear to involve, a conflict of interest or other potentially incompatible obligation. Such a relationship includes consulting or other outside employment, a relationship defined as a related-party interest, or any other relationship that results in a gift or other benefits to the employee.

Evaluating and Resolving Violations of Standards

University employees are asked to report in good faith violations of this policy or any law, regulation or other occurrence of institutional noncompliance, whenever observed or suspected. Reports may be made to either the employee's immediate supervisor, the HR/AA Director, the campus assigned Institutional Compliance Officer (Director of Business Services) or confidentially to the telephone number provided on the University's Institutional Compliance website. Violations involving sponsored project agreements should be directed to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and handled in accordance with applicable policy.

Confidentiality of the information and employee(s) involved is of utmost importance to insure proper adjudication of the allegations. Federal and state laws prohibit university officials from retaliating against employees who report violations in good faith. In addition, the university is committed to maintaining the confidentiality and anonymity of all individuals who make such reports to the extent allowed by law.

All reports received will be reviewed immediately to determine whether an investigation is warranted. Every attempt will be made to resolve internal violations at the lowest level of administrative review. However, after a determination of the seriousness of the violation has been made, other administrators may also become involved. When criminal activity is suspect, appropriate civil authorities may become involved. When the investigation involves the Internal Auditing Department, the Office of General Counsel, or the UHS Institutional Compliance Officer, the appropriate campus Vice President will be notified as well as the Director, Human Resources/Affirmative Action.

Based upon the findings, appropriate action will be taken to remedy the situation.

Supervisors may contact the Director, Human Resources/Affirmative Action or the campus Institutional Compliance Officer (Director of Business Services) at any time for guidance and assistance in resolving standards of conduct violations. Also, employees may call the State of Texas Ethics Commission (512.463.5800) for guidance.

Sanctions for Violations of Employee Standards of Conduct

Standard of Conduct violations, depending upon the severity, may subject the employee to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, as well as to the possibility of criminal charges and prosecution.

SUMMARY OF DISCLOSURE AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

  1. In accordance with Board of Regents Policy 57.01.3, copies of the laws and Board of Regents Policies listed below are to be distributed to an employee by the Human Resources Office upon initial employment and annually by the University of Houston System Board of Regents' office.
  2. UHS Policy Distribution - In accordance with UHS Administrative Memorandum 02.A.29, Ethical Conduct of Employees, copies of this policy are to be distributed to all university employees annually. The annual distribution may be by e-mail.
  3. UHV Policy Distribution - Copies of university policy C-8, Employee Standards of Conduct, are to be distributed upon initial employment and then electronically, annually to all employees.
  4. Faculty Consulting or Outside Paid Professional Activity Disclosure - In accordance with Board of Regent policy 57.02.5, Faculty who wish to arrange consulting or other paid professional activities must provide prior written notification and receive written approval from their dean. Review by their dean of such activities will include consideration of any real or apparent conflict of interest and the benefit of the proposed service to the system and the component university.
  5. Exempt Staff Consulting or Paid Professional Activity Personal Disclosure - In accordance with Board of Regent policy 57.02.6, professional or administrative staff who wish to arrange consulting or other paid professional activities must obtain prior written approval from the appropriate supervisor. While consulting is a recognized aspect of faculty activities with the limitations noted in this document, consulting by professional or administrative staff must be justified on an individual basis by clear and direct benefit to the system.
  6. Institutional Reporting of Outside Consulting, Employment or Expert Witness Services - Annually, during the first quarter, faculty and exempt professional staff will be surveyed by the Provost's Office for any consulting, outside employment, or expert witness activities. The information will be forwarded to the appropriate state office with an information copy to the UHS General Counsel's office.
  7. Employee Reporting of Violations of Ethical Standards - University employees are asked to report violations of this policy or any law, regulation or other occurrence of institutional noncompliance, whenever observed, to one of the following: the employee's immediate supervisor, the HR/AA Director, the Institutional Compliance Officer or anonymously to the telephone number provided on the University's Institutional Compliance website.
  8. Employee Disclosure and Annual Reporting of Related Party Interests - Annually, within the first quarter, the Department of Business Services will obtain signed disclosure statements from all faculty and staff in a position to originate purchase requests or influence purchasing decisions of any possible conflict of interest situations. Information is reported in accordance with UHS Administrative Memorandum 02.A.29. Disclosures are required from any employee who
    • has previously disclosed a related party interest, or
    • will serve in a supervisory capacity at a department level or higher in the coming fiscal year, or
    • is in a position to make final purchasing decisions. (this category includes all delegated departmental purchasers and ProCard users), or
    • has signature authority on any university cost center, or
    • can personally benefit from a relationship or business transaction.
  9. Financial Statement Report - In accordance with UHS Administrative Memorandum, 02.A.29, Section 5.2, the President is required to submit an annual financial statement with the Texas Ethics Commission using forms prescribed by the Commission.
  10. Procurement Disclosure Report - In accordance with UHS Administrative Memorandum 02.A.29, Section 5.2, certain employees, including vice presidents, employees at the director level or higher, employees who are over procurement and contracting functions, and those others considered by the campus to have high-level procurement responsibilities shall file with the chief financial officer of each component a report disclosing the following information:
    • The amount of any compensation received for services related to these associations; and
    • Known information regarding whether any of the organizations cited have any relationship to the University of Houston System and a description of the relationship.

REFERENCES

  1. Board of Regents Policy 57.01, Code of Ethics, Section VI – Administration and Finance (http://www.uhsa.uh.edu/board-of-regents/policies/index.php#BOR Policies Section VI)
  2. UH System Administrative Memo 02.A.29, Ethical Conduct of Employees (http://www.uh.edu/policyservices/sam/2HumanResources/2A29.pdf)
  3. Texas Ethics Commission's Guide to Ethics Laws for State Employees (http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/guides/G08o&e.htm)
  4. University Policy C-6, Nepotism (http://www.uhv.edu/fin/policy/c/c-6.aspx)
  5. Texas Government Code, Section 572.051, Standards of Conduct (http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/statutes/07ch572.htm#572.051)

Approved by:

Signature Obtained         05/19/11
Dr. Don Smith, Ph.D.     Date
Interim President

Originating Department: Business Services
Next Review Date: May 2013