SYSTEM POLICY


07.01 Ethics Policy, TAMUS Employees

Approved February 27, 1995 (MO 44-95), Revised September 1, 1995 (MO 286-95), Revised July 26, 1996 (MO 169-96), Revised November 30, 2000 (MO 229-00)


1. INTRODUCTION

The responsibility for educating and training the future leaders of the state and nation carries with it the duty to adhere to the highest ethical standards and principles. Therefore the Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System promulgates the following ethical principles and standards which shall apply to all persons employed by TAMUS regardless of rank or position. In the event of a conflict between the terms of this policy and any existing policy, this policy will control. If a topic has also been addressed in other System Policies or Regulations, the procedures and statements contained therein are hereby reaffirmed and made a part hereof for all purposes. Use of the term "TAMUS" is intended to include the System Administrative and General Offices and the component universities, agencies and the health science center unless the context indicates otherwise.

2. PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL CONDUCT

2.1 TAMUS employees shall not hold financial interests that are in conflict with the conscientious performance of their official duties and responsibilities.
2.2 TAMUS employees shall not engage in any financial transaction in order to further any private interest using nonpublic information which they obtain in the course of their employment.
2.3 TAMUS employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.
2.4 TAMUS employees shall make no unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind TAMUS.
2.5 TAMUS employees shall not use their public offices for private gain.
2.6 TAMUS employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private or public organization or individual.
2.7 TAMUS employees shall protect and conserve public property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
2.8 TAMUS employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official duties and responsibilities.
2.9 TAMUS employees shall promptly disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption in accordance with System Policy 21.04, Control of Fraud and Fraudulent Actions.
2.10 TAMUS employees shall adhere to all laws, regulations, and policies that provide equal opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.
2.11 TAMUS employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions that would create the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards of TAMUS.

3. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

3.1 Ethics Commission Financial Disclosure Statements: The Chancellor, the presidents of the component universities, the directors of the component agencies, and the president of the health science center are required by state law to file a financial statement with the Texas Ethics Commission annually. Forms prescribed by the commission shall be utilized. A copy of such forms shall be filed in the Office of the Board of Regents.
3.2 Disclosure of Interest for Non-CEOs: Deputy chancellors, vice chancellors, vice presidents, and all TAMUS employees who exercise discretion with regard to the investment of funds under the control of the System, shall file annually with their respective chief executive officers an Annual Financial Disclosure Report disclosing detailed information regarding themselves, their spouses, and their dependent children.
The Annual Financial Disclosure Form is maintained by the Office of General Counsel and is available online using the following link:
http://sago.tamu.edu/legal/ethics/ethics.htm
3.3 Outside Employment and Service of Chancellor: Any outside employment of the Chancellor, including serving on the Board of Directors of a corporation, shall be approved in advance by the Chairman of the Board of Regents, or the Chairman's designee.
3.4 Disclosure of Interest in Property to be Acquired: As officers of government, the Chancellor, presidents, and agency directors are required to disclose any legal or equitable interest in property that is to be acquired with public funds. Such disclosure shall be made by filing an affidavit containing specific information as required by Tex. Govt. Code 553.002. The affidavit must be filed with the county clerk of the county in which the individual resides and the county clerk of each county in which the property is located. Such filing must be completed within 10 days before the date on which the property is to be acquired by purchase or condemnation. "Public funds" includes only funds collected by or through a government.

4. SYSTEM PROPERTY AND SERVICES

4.1 Abuse of Official Capacity: It is a violation of state law for TAMUS employees acting with the intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, to intentionally or knowingly misuse any thing of value belonging to the government that comes into their custody or possession by virtue of their office or employment.
4.2 Misuse of Official Information: It is a violation of state law if a TAMUS employee, in reliance on information to which he or she has access in his or her official capacity and which has not been made public, (1) acquires or aids another to acquire a pecuniary interest in any property, transaction, or enterprise that may be affected by the information; or (2) speculates or aids another to speculate on the basis of the information. It is also a violation of state law if a TAMUS employee, with the intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, discloses or uses information for a nongovernmental purpose that he or she has access to by means of his or her employment and that has not been made public.
4.3 Telephones and Other Communications Equipment: See, System Policy 33.04, sec. 1, and System Regulation 25.99.08
4.4 Other TAMUS Equipment: See, System Policy 33.04, sec. 2.
4.5 TAMUS Vehicles: See, System Policy 33.04, sec. 3.

5. BENEFITS, GIFTS, AND HONORARIA

A "benefit" is anything reasonably regarded as pecuniary gain or pecuniary advantage, including benefit to any other person in whose welfare an employee has a direct and substantial interest.

5.1 Bribery: No TAMUS employee may solicit, offer, confer, agree to confer, accept or agree to accept any benefit in exchange for his or her decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of official power or discretion. A benefit that is otherwise allowed by System policy is nevertheless prohibited if it is offered in exchange for official action, as described above.
5.2 Prohibited Benefits: TAMUS employees who exercise discretion in connection with contracts, purchases, payments, claims, and other pecuniary transactions of government may not solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit from any person the employee knows is interested in or is likely to become interested in any contract, purchase, payment, claim, or transaction involving the employee's discretion. This prohibition does not apply to (1) gifts or other benefits conferred on account of kinship or a personal, professional, or business relationship independent of the employee's status as a TAMUS employee; (2) a fee prescribed by law to be received by the employee or any other benefit to which the employee is lawfully entitled or for which he or she gives legitimate consideration in a capacity other than as a TAMUS employee; (3) a gift, award, or memento that is received from a lobbyist who is required to make reports under Chapter 305 of the Government Code; and (4) items having a value of less than $50, not including cash or negotiable instruments. An employee who receives an unsolicited benefit that he or she is prohibited from accepting by law may donate the benefit to a governmental entity that has the authority to accept the gift or may donate the benefit to a recognized tax-exempt charitable organization formed for educational, religious, or scientific purposes.
5.3 Food, Lodging, Transportation, and Entertainment Received as a Guest: A TAMUS employee may accept food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment from persons or entities he or she knows or reasonably should know are interested in or likely to become interested in a contract, purchase, payment, claim, decision, or transaction involving the exercise of the employee's discretion only if the employee is a "guest" as defined by Texas law. An employee is a "guest" if the person or a representative of the entity providing the food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment is present at the time the food, lodging, transportation, or entertainment is received or enjoyed by the employee. The Chancellor, presidents, and agency directors are required to report any such benefits valued at over $250 on their annual disclosure statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
5.4 Benefits Received: TAMUS employees shall disclose to their respective CEOs any benefit received in the course of official business having a value of more than $250. The Chancellor, presidents and agency directors shall make such disclosures to the Board of Regents.
5.5 Awards: TAMUS employees may accept plaques and similar recognition awards, including achievement and recognition awards from TAMUS.
5.6 Honoraria: TAMUS employees may not solicit, accept, or agree to accept an honorarium in consideration for services they would not have been asked to provide but for their official position or duties. This prohibition includes a request for or acceptance of a payment made to a third party if made in exchange for such services. However, they may accept the direct provision of or reimbursement for expenses for transportation and lodging incurred in connection with a speaking engagement at a conference or similar event. Meals provided as a part of the event or reimbursement for actual expenses for meals may also be accepted. Participation by the employee must be more than merely perfunctory.

6. DUAL OFFICE HOLDING

6.1 Nonelective State or Federal Office: TAMUS employees may hold nonelective offices with boards, commissions, and other state and federal entities provided that the holding of such office, (1) is of benefit to the State of Texas, or is required by state or federal law, and (2) is not in conflict with the employee's position within TAMUS. Such appointments must be approved by the responsible CEO. Prior to the Chancellor or a CEO accepting an invitation to serve in an additional nonelective office, the Board of Regents must determine that the appointment meets the two requirements stated above. The Board must also make an official record of any compensation to be received by the Chancellor or CEO from such appointment, including salary, bonus, per diem or other types of compensation.
6.2 Positions of Employment with Government Agencies: TAMUS employees may hold other positions of employment with agencies, boards, commissions, or other entities of government so long as the holding of such positions is consistent with the prohibitions against dual office holding in the Texas Constitution. Consulting arrangements with federal, state, or local governmental agencies of a detached and independent advisory nature are not considered to be appointments with such agencies.

7. Public Officials and Political Activities

7.1 Entertainment: If a TAMUS component provides tickets to a public official to allow the official and/or his or her guests to attend an event, an officer or employee of the TAMUS component will serve as host to the official, and must attend the event.
7.2 Perishable Food Items: TAMUS components may provide public officials with small, infrequent gifts of perishable food items delivered to their offices if such gifts are unsolicited and are not offered in exchange for action or inaction on the part of the public official.
7.3 Expenses for Public Officials: TAMUS components may pay expenses in order to furnish information to state officials relevant to their official position, including presentations about the programs and services of TAMUS.
7.4 Use of Official Authority Prohibited: No TAMUS employee may use his or her official authority or influence, or permit the use of a program administered by TAMUS to interfere with or affect the result of an election or nomination of a candidate or to achieve any other political purpose. No TAMUS employee may coerce, attempt to coerce, command, restrict, attempt to restrict, or prevent the payment, loan, or contribution of any thing of value to a person or political organization for political purposes. Any TAMUS employee who violates either of these provisions is subject to immediate termination of employment, in accordance with the Texas Government Code.
7.5 Use of TAMUS Funds or Property: No TAMUS employee shall expend or authorize the expenditure of any TAMUS funds, services or supplies for the purpose of financing or otherwise supporting the candidacy of a person for an office in the legislative, executive, or judicial branch of state government or of the government of the United States, or influencing the outcome of any election, or the passage or defeat of any legislative measure. No appropriated funds may be expended for the payment of full or partial salary of any employee who is also required by Tex. Govt. Code Chpt. 305 to register as a lobbyist. TAMUS facilities may be used as polling places for local, state, and national elections.
7.6 Voting and Political Participation: As employees of the State of Texas, TAMUS employees have the rights of freedom of association and political participation guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions, except as limited by valid state laws. TAMUS employees shall be allowed sufficient time off to vote in public elections without a deduction from pay or from accrued leave time.
7.7 Political Campaign Events on TAMUS Property: See, System Regulation 33.01.01.
7.8 Employees as Candidates and Officeholders:
7.8.1 TAMUS employees may run for election and serve as members of the governing bodies of school districts, cities, towns, or other local governmental districts. No campaign activities may be conducted during official business hours unless the employee has requested and received permission to use leave time for such purpose. Any employee elected to such a position may not receive any salary for serving as a member of such governing bodies.
7.8.2 If an employee wishes to announce as a candidate and seek election to other than a local office, such employee must seek approval to be granted an unpaid leave of absence until the final election is over. If the employee is elected, a resignation from employment is deemed to be automatic and the employment ends when the person assumes office. If the chief executive officer is not willing to grant a leave of absence for the election process, the employee must choose between the position of employment and the desire to be elected to another position.
7.9 Political Contributions from Employees: TAMUS employees may make personal contributions to candidates for office and political organizations, with the exception that no TAMUS employee may contribute personal services, money, or goods of value to a candidate campaigning for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

8. TRAVEL

Detailed TAMUS policy regarding travel regulations may be found in System Policies and Regulations.
8.1 "Official Business" for Purpose of Travel: To qualify for travel reimbursements and use of TAMUS vehicles, including aircraft, the purpose of a trip must be "state business" or "official business" of TAMUS. State or official business is the accomplishment of a governmental function directly entrusted to TAMUS or one of its components, including the reasonably necessary means and methods to accomplish that function.
8.2 Improper Travel Reimbursement: When a TAMUS employee engages in travel for which compensation is to be received from any source other than System funds, the employee shall not submit a claim under the provisions of the TAMUS travel regulations. A TAMUS employee who receives an overpayment for a travel expense shall reimburse TAMUS for the overpayment.
8.3 Transportation, Meals, and Lodging: Reimbursement for travel expenses for all employees, including the Chancellor, presidents, and agency directors is governed by the State of Texas Travel Allowance Guide.
8.4 Reimbursement for Employee Travel Under Contracts and Grants: Employees traveling under contracts and grants (federal, state, private) shall be reimbursed for travel expenses and allowances on the same basis as other TAMUS employees, except in those instances where the terms of the contract or grant specify travel guidelines and reimbursement rates which differ from State of Texas reimbursement rates.
8.5 Travel Bonus (Frequent Flyer) Awards: See, System Regulation 25.02.01, sec. 2.6.
8.6 State Credit Cards: See, System Regulation 25.02.01, sec. 6.
8.7 Official Travel by Spouses and Relatives of Employees: See, System Regulation 25.02.01, sec. 4.
8.8 Foreign Travel: See, System Regulation 25.02.01, sec. 2.4.
8.9 Use of System Aircraft: See, System Policy 25.01 and System Regulation 25.02.01, sec. 3.

9. EMPLOYMENT

9.1 Supplementary Compensation: See, System Policies 01.03 and 31.01.
9.2 Outside Employment and Consulting: See, System Policy 31.05.
9.3 Nepotism: See, System Policy 33.03.
9.4 Sexual Harassment: See, System Policy 34.01.

CONTACT OFFICE: The Office of General Counsel