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Policy Name: Ethics Policy for the Board of Regents
Policy No: 2.01
Date Passed: 06/23/1995
Last Reviewed: June 2012
Review Next: June 2014

Ethics Policy for the Board of Regents

Introduction

It is of the highest importance that the people of the State of Texas have complete confidence in the integrity of their public servants. It is for this reason that these standards of conduct and ethical principles and accompanying guidelines are promulgated by the Board of Regents of Texas Woman's University (TWU).1

  1. Standards of Conduct
    In accordance with the standards for public servants established by Texas common law and by statutory provisions, the Board of Regents of Texas Woman's University hereby adopts these standards of conduct for its members.2
    A member of the Board of Regents should not:
    1. Accept or solicit any gift, favor, or service that might reasonably tend to influence the Regent in the discharge of official duties or that the Regent knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence the Regent's official conduct.
    2. Accept employment or engage in a business or professional activity that the Regent might reasonably expect would require or induce him or her to disclose confidential information acquired by reason of their official position.
    3. Accept other appointments or any employment or compensation that could reasonably be expected to impair the Regent's independence of judgment in the performance of official duties.
    4. Make personal investments that could reasonably be expected to create a substantial conflict between the Regent's private interest and the public interest.
    5. Intentionally or knowingly solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit for having exercised his or her official powers or performed official duties in favor of another.
  2. Conflicts of Interest
    It is the policy of the State of Texas that state officers and employees may not have direct or indirect interests, including financial and other interests, engage in business transactions or professional activities, or incur any obligation of any nature that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the officer's or employee's duties in the public interest.3 In order to implement this policy and strengthen the faith and confidence of the people of Texas in the integrity of those persons serving on the Board of Regents of Texas Woman's University, the Board adopts the following policies.4
    1. Ethics Commission Financial Disclosure Statements: Members of the Board of Regents must file a financial statement with the Texas Ethics Commission annually.5 Forms prescribed by the Commission shall be utilized.6
    2. Contracts Prohibited: Except as provided in paragraph (C) below, TWU may not enter into a contract in which a member of the Board of Regents has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest.7 A pecuniary interest owned by a member's spouse is considered to be an "indirect pecuniary interest."8
    3. Recusal Permitted Only for Certain Types of Contracts Having Pecuniary Interests: If a Regent is a stockholder or director of a corporation seeking to enter into a contract with TWU and the Regent owns or has a beneficial interest in no more than five percent of the corporation's outstanding capital stock, the contract may be executed as long as it is an affiliation agreement, license (including a license of intellectual property) or sponsored research agreement, or it is awarded by competitive bidding or competitive sealed proposals.9 An interest owned by the Regent's spouse is considered to be a "beneficial interest."10 The affected Regent must disclose such interest in a public meeting of the Board of Regents and refrain from voting on the contract or transaction.11 Any such contract or transaction requiring Board approval must be approved by an affirmative majority of the Board members voting on the contract or transaction.12
    4. Regent Disclosure of Personal or Private Interest: A member of the Board who has a personal or private interest13 in a measure, proposal, or decision pending before the Board of Regents--other than a contract14 in which a Regent has a pecuniary interest--shall disclose such interest in a public meeting of the Board, and such disclosure shall be entered in the minutes of the Board.15 The Board may consider such measure, proposal, or decision, but any member having such an interest shall not vote or otherwise participate in such deliberation or action of the Board.16 This procedure may not be utilized for contracts in which a member has a pecuniary interest.17
    5. Potential Conflict of Interest of Regent: As soon as possible after becoming aware of any potential conflict of interest, a Regent shall disclose such fact and any other relevant information to the Board.
    6. Contracts with Nonprofit Corporations: The Board is not precluded from entering into contracts or other transactions with nonprofit corporations merely because a Regent also serves on the board of or is a member of the nonprofit corporation.18 Other factors and interests, such as pecuniary or personal interest, may require disclosure and recusal, as described above.
    7. Disclosure of Interest in Property to be Acquired: As officers of government, Regents are required to disclose any legal or equitable interest in property that is to be acquired with public funds.19 Such disclosure shall be made by filing an affidavit containing specific information as required by statute.20 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.21 Such filing must be completed within 10 days before the date on which the property is to be acquired by purchase or condemnation.22 "Public funds" include only funds collected by or through a government.23
  3. Travel
    Detailed TWU and State of Texas travel regulations may be obtained from the TWU Controller's Office.
    1. Transportation, Meals, and Lodging: Members of the Board of Regents are entitled to receive the following when traveling to conduct official business:
      1. reimbursement of actual expenses for meals and lodging when traveling outside of the State of Texas and reimbursement of actual expenses for meals and lodging when traveling inside the State of Texas, not to exceed the amount provided in the current Appropriations Act; and
      2. reimbursement for transportation and incidental expenses at rates specified in the Appropriations Act for state employees.24

      Other expenses incurred by Regents while traveling on official business may be paid to members of the Board from institutional fund accounts although they may not be reimbursable from other funding sources.25
    2. "Official Business" for Purpose of Travel: To qualify for travel reimbursements and use of TWU vehicles, the purpose of a trip must be "state business" or "official business" of TWU. State or official business is the accomplishment of a governmental function directly entrusted to TWU or one of its components, including the reasonably necessary means and methods to accomplish that function.
    3. Improper Travel Reimbursement: When a Regent engages in travel for which compensation is to be received from any source other than TWU funds, he or she shall not submit a claim under the provisions of the TWU travel regulations for the compensation to be reimbursed. A Regent who receives an overpayment for a travel expense shall reimburse TWU for the overpayment.
    4. Travel Bonus (Frequent Flyer) Awards: Members of the Board of Regents who earn credit with airlines, hotels, car rental companies, etc., for official travel are not required to account for such credit or to use such for official travel only.26
    5. State Credit Cards: Members of the Board of Regents may not use state credit cards for personal expenses. State credit cards may only be used for legitimate TWU business expenses.27 Payment of charges on individual cards is the sole responsibility of the individual Regent. TWU shall not be responsible for the charges, regardless of the type of charge.28 Regents may use state credit cards to charge for items that, while they qualify as official business, are not fully reimbursable under state and/or TWU guidelines for reimbursement.29
    6. Foreign Travel: Requests for travel outside of the United States for which reimbursement is sought must be approved by the Chancellor or the Chancellor's designee, in advance.30
  4. Benefits, Gifts, and Honoria
    A "benefit" is anything reasonably regarded as pecuniary gain or pecuniary advantage, including benefit to any other person in whose welfare a Regent has a direct and substantial interest.31
    1. Bribery: No member of the Board of Regents may solicit, offer, or accept any benefit in exchange for their decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of official power or discretion.32 A benefit that is otherwise allowed by University policy is nevertheless prohibited if it is offered in exchange for official action, as described above.
    2. Prohibited Benefits: As public servants who exercise discretion in connection with contracts, purchases, payments, claims and other pecuniary transactions of government, a member of the Board of Regents may not solicit, accept or agree to accept any benefit from any person the Regent knows is interested in or is likely to become interested in any contract, purchase, payment, claim or transaction involving the Regent's discretion.33This 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 Regent's status as a member of the Board;34 2) a fee prescribed by law to be received by the Regent or any other benefit to which he or she is lawfully entitled or for which he or she gives legitimate consideration in a capacity other than as a member of the Board;35 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.36 A Regent 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.37
    3. Gift Items: Members of the Board shall disclose to the Finance and Audit Committee of the Board of Regents any gift received in the course of official business having a value of more than $250.
    4. Benefits from Friends, Relatives, and Associates: Members of the Board may accept benefits from personal friends, relatives, or business associates with whom they have a relationship independent of their official status, so long as the benefit is not offered in exchange for official action or decision.38
    5. Awards: Regents may accept plaques and similar recognition awards.39
    6. Honoraria: Regents 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.40 This prohibition includes a request for or acceptance of a payment made to a third party if made in exchange for such services.41 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.42 Meals provided as a part of the event or reimbursement for actual expenses for meals may also be accepted.43 Participation by a Regent must be more than merely perfunctory.
  5. Political Activities
    1. Use of TWU Funds or Property: No member of the Board shall expend or authorize the expenditure of any TWU funds for the purpose of influencing the outcome of any election, or the passage or defeat of any legislative measure.44
    2. Political Contributions: Regents may make personal contributions to candidates for office and political organizations, with one exception: A Regent may not expend more than $100 for the cost of correspondence to aid or defeat the election of a speaker candidate.45
  6. Use of Authority
    1. Misapplication of Property: It is a violation of state law for a Regent acting with the intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm another, to intentionally or knowingly misapply anything of value belonging to the government that comes into the Regent's custody or possession by virtue of their office.46
    2. Nepotism: Any Regent is prohibited from voting for or confirming the appointment of any person related to such Regent within the third degree by consanguinity (blood) or within the second degree by affinity (marriage) when the salary or compensation for such person is to be paid from public funds.47 Relatives within the third degree by consanguinity include a Regent's parent, child, grandparent, sibling, grandchild, great-grandparent, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, and great-grandchild. Relatives within the second degree of affinity include Regent's spouse; the spouse's parents, grandparents, and siblings; the Regent's son-in-law or daughter-in-law; and, the Regent's grandchild's spouse.48 In addition, members of the Board of Regents may not take such action on behalf of any individual who is related to any Board member within such degrees.49 These prohibitions do not apply if the person who is related to the Regent has been continuously employed in the office or position for at least thirty days prior to appointment or employment of the Regent. If the related person continues in such a position, the Regent may not participate in any deliberation or voting on the appointment, reappointment, confirmation of the appointment or reappointment, employment, reemployment, change in status, compensation, or dismissal of the related individual if that action applies only to that individual and is not taken regarding a bona fide class or category of employees.50
    3. Misuse of Official Information: It is a violation of state law for a Regent if, in reliance on information to which he has access in his official capacity and which has not been made public, he or she 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.51
    4. Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is prohibited.

          1Abbreviations used in the footnotes are as follows:

Govt. Code--Texas Government Code, as amended through the 81st Legislative Session (2009).
Ed. Code--Texas Education Code, as amended through the 81st Legislative Session (2009).
AA--Appropriations Act, as passed by the 81st Legislature (2009).
Op. Tex. Att'y. Gen.--Texas Attorney General Opinion.
EAO--Ethics Advisory Opinion (issued by the Texas Ethics Commission).
PC--Texas Penal Code, as amended through the 81st Legislative Session (2009).
Tx. Const. --Texas Constitution, as amended through the 81st Legislative Session (2009)

2Govt. Code 572.051
3Govt. Code 572.001(a)
4Govt. Code 572.001(b)
5Govt. Code 572.021-572.034; EAO 28; EAO 236; EAO 238; EAO 265; EAO 326; EAO 333
6Govt. Code 572.030
7Meyers v. Walker, 276 S.W. 305; Op.Tex.Att'y.Gen. JM-671
8Op.Tex.Att'y.Gen. JM817
9Ed. Code 51.923(c)
10Op.Tex. Att'y.Gen. JM-817
11Ed. Code 51.923(d)
12Ed. Code 51.923(d)
13A "personal or private interest" may be either pecuniary or non-pecuniecy. An example of a personal pecuniary interest in a decision would be ownership of real property whose value will be affected by a decision by the Board to purchase nearby property. An example of personal non-pecuniary interest would be public acknowledgment that a faculty member who is being considered for promotion is a relative or close associate of the Regent.
14The common law standard on conflicts of interest in contracts is very high in Texas. Only in the limited circumstances outlined in Paragraph C above are boards allowed to enter into agreements when a member has a pecuniary interest in the contract. It only applies in the situations described therein, and would not apply to any other type of contract. Past rulings of the Attorney General have indicated that unless a contract falls within one of these exceptions, it is barred by common law conflict principles.
15Govt. Code 572.058(c). Note that subsection (f) of Sec. 572.058 states that an individual does not have a "personal or private interest" in a measure, proposal, or decision if the individual is engaged in a profession, trade, or occupation and the individual's interest is the same as all others similarly engaged in the profession, trade, or occupation. EAO 256; EAO 316
16Ibid.
17Op. Tex. Att'y. Gen. JM-671
18Ed. Code 51.923(b)
19Govt. Code 553.002(a)
20Govt. Code 553.002(b) The information includes the following: name, title, description of the property, the nature, type and amount of interest held, and the date on which the interest was acquired.
21Govt. Code 553.002(c)
22Govt. Code 553.002(a)
23Govt. Code 553.001(1)
24See Current Appropriations Act and V.T.C.A. Govt. Code Chapter 660
25Govt. Code 660.004(a)(b)
26PC 39.02(d)
27EAO 95; EAO 147; PC 39.01
28Ibid
29EAO 147
30Govt. Code 660.024
31PC 36.01(3)
32PC 36.02; EAO 130
33PC 36.08(6); EAO 294
34PC 36.10(a)(2)
35PC 36.10(a)(1)
36PC 36.10(b)
37PC 36.08(i)
38PC 36.10(a)(2); EAO 130
39EAO 36
40PC 36.07(a); EAO 17; EAO 19
41EAO 19
42EAO 17
43EAO 17
44EAO 45
45Govt. Code 302.019(b); EAO 24
46PC 39.01(2)(A); EAO 134
47Govt. Code 573.041(1)
48Govt. Code 573.023-573.025
49Govt. Code 573.041(2)
50Govt. Code 573.062
51PC 39.06(a)  

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