The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has established a code of ethics for unclassified employees. This code is located in Ch. UWS 8, Wisconsin Administrative Code, and essentially tracks the code of ethics for public officials and employees.
Conflicts of Interest
UWS 8 addresses conflicts of interest, but also states that the Board of Regents does not intend to prohibit an unclassified staff member from freely pursuing teaching, research, and professional and public service activities which will not result in conflicts. Conflicts of interest may nonetheless occur in the following situations:
- Use of Public Position or State Property-Unclassified staff members may not use or attempt to use their public positions or state property to gain anything of substantial value for the private benefit of themselves, their families, or organizations in which they have a significant financial interest. Organizations in which a staff member has a significant financial interest are organizations in which the employee, or a member of the employee’s immediate family, is a director, officer or trustee, or owns or controls (directly or indirectly, severally or in the aggregate) at least 10% of the outstanding equity. Examples include corporations, partnerships, proprietorships, firms, enterprises, franchises, associations, or trusts.
- Acceptance of Money or Gifts-Unclassified staff members may not accept anything of value with the understanding that the reward will influence their conduct of university business.
- Confidentiality-Unclassified staff members may not use or disclose confidential university information in a way that could result in the receipt of something valuable for themselves, their families, or organizations in which they have a significant financial interest.
- Awarding Contracts-Unclassified employees, their families, or organizations in which they have a financial interest may not enter into contracts or leases derived from state funding if the employee is in a position to influence the awarding of the contract. This rule applies only to a contract or lease involving payments of more than $3,000 within a 12-month period. An exception to this rule occurs when the employee discloses the potential conflict, when the employee is not in a position to influence the award of the contract, and when the employee’s dean, director, or appropriate administrator approves the contract. Deans and directors may approve such contracts if they determine that the contract will not substantially conflict with the employee’s official duties.
- Nepotism-An unclassified employee may not participate in the decision to hire or promote a member of his or her immediate family. Giving preferential treatment in the supervision of an immediate family member is also prohibited. Immediate family member is defined as the unclassified staff member’s spouse, and any person who receives, directly or indirectly, more than one half of his or her support from the unclassified staff member or from whom the unclassified staff member receives, directly or indirectly, more than one half of his or her support.
- Use of University Facilities, Absence from Regular Duties for the Purpose of Engaging in Outside Activity, and Types of Activities that May Result in Conflict of Interest-Check with your institution for policies on these matters. Your institution should have policies regulating the use of university facilities and university personnel in connection with outside activities. Your institution should also have standards on absence from university duties in relation to outside activities, and guidelines listing examples of activities that might present a material conflict of interest. While consulting and other outside activities are permitted, such activities must not be allowed to interfere with the performance of an unclassified employee’s job duties.
An unclassified employee may engage in outside activities related to the employee’s field of interest unless the activities conflict with the employee’s public responsibilities to the University of Wisconsin System, or to the employee’s individual institution. Unclassified employees must file an Outside Activities Report which documents involvement in outside activities every April 30th and must update the form throughout the calendar year as changes occur. Outside Activity Reports are public records. All unclassified employees must submit these reports, whether or not they have engaged in outside activities. Employees must submit these reports to their dean, director, or to an appropriate administrator. Some reportable activities are listed below:
- Associations with organizations in which the employee, or a member of the employee’s immediate family, has a significant financial interest, and which are related to the staff member’s field of academic specialization.
- Private Remunerative Relationships between an unclassified employee and a non-governmental sponsor of university research for which the employee is a principal investigator.
- Remunerative Outside Activities in an unclassified employee’s field of academic interest or specialization, and whether the employee earns for such activities $5000 or more per year from a single source. This provision includes, but is not limited to, consulting.
For more information on this requirement see guidance on Conflicts of Interest and Outside Activities Reporting.
Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
Unclassified employees must report potential conflicts of interest as they arise to their dean, director, or other appropriate administrator by means of a written statement describing the nature of the potential conflict. The dean or director shall advise the employee, in writing and within 15 days after receipt of the report, of one of the three following conclusions:
- That there is no conflict;
- That the situation requires further investigation; or
- That there is a conflict which must be resolved either by the staff member not proceeding with his university duties so long as the conflict remains, or by not proceeding with his personal duties so long as the conflict remains.
Employees may also consult their institution’s ethics committee. These committees provide unclassified employees with advice on the application of UWS 8. All committee deliberations are confidential to the extent permitted by law and take place in closed meetings.