Policy 1410 – Code of Ethics for Public Employees
WWW Posting Date: 1/15/2002
Responsible Office: Office of the President / Vice Presidents of Each Division / Department of Human Resources
Reference: Louisiana Statutes, Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics
A new code of ethics for state officials and employees, which for the first time applies to College and University faculty and administrators, became effective on April 1, 1980.
Enacted pursuant to a state constitutional mandate that all state officials and employees be governed by a code of ethics, the law–Act 443 of 1979–sets strict standards for public employees and essentially prohibits the use of their public office for private gain.
The law does recognize, however, that higher education operates under special circumstances not common to other state agencies. For example, the law has a special provision to protect tenure and accreditation.
Tenured Employee Provisions
“Any activity,” the law states, “of any public employee of a public higher education institution in this state who is covered by the tenure policy of the Board of Regents and the administration of the tenure policies by the three higher education management boards and which activity is required by either regional or professional accreditation standards of organizations recognized by the Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation,” is exempted from the Act.
The law also provides special provisions for tenured higher education faculty whom the Commission on Ethics for Public Employees proposed to discipline. A tenured employee may appeal any disciplinary action of the Ethics Commission to his/her Management Board, provided that the appeal is filed within 30 days of a final decision by the Commission. Within 120 days of the appeal, the Management Board is required to review the record and render a decision.
The Management Board’s decision may be appealed to the First or Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal either by the employee or the Ethics Commission within 30 days of the Board’s decision.
A final determination that a tenured public employee has violated the code may be grounds for his/her being disciplined or dismissed by the appropriate Management Board.
If a majority of the Ethics Commission finds that a state employee has violated the code, it may remove, suspend, order a reduction in pay, or order a demotion of the employee; or it may impose a fine of up to $5,000. Additionally, the Ethics Commission, the Attorney General, or a local district attorney may bring civil action for damages against any public servant who benefits economically from a violation of the code.
The heart of the ethics law is its section prohibiting payments from nonpublic sources for a public servant’s actions associated with his/her official duties.
“No public servant,” the law states, “shall receive anything of economic value for any service…which draws substantially upon official data or ideas which have not become part of the body of public information.” The law also prohibits an employee from receiving extra compensation for service “devoted substantially to the responsibilities, programs, or operations” of the employee’s agency if the employee has participated in those operations. (Code of Governmental Ethics – Payment from Nonpublic Sources)
Similar provisions of the law place prohibitions on payments for future services, payments to members of the employee’s family, submitting bids or entering into contracts with agencies under the employee’s supervision or jurisdiction, (Code of Governmental Ethics – Prohibited Contractual Arrangements) and the solicitation or acceptance of gifts or gratuities from individuals seeking to obtain business from the employee’s agency. (Code of Governmental Ethics – Gifts)
The System’s policy is that staff should not accept anything of value (e.g., gift baskets, meals, etc.) from individuals or companies that are in financial relationships or would like to be in financial relationships with our universities or our System. (ULS Policy M-(9-a) – Accepting Monetary or Non-Monetary Compensation or Gifts)
For example, do not accept meals or gift baskets from employees of accounting firms or bond attorneys that are either working for the campus or System or are considering making proposals for such business. This policy is intended to be stricter than and complement the state’s existing ethics rules and statutory requirements. The first obligation is to follow official ethics rules and statutory requirements in cases where System rules contradict or appear to undermine those requirements.
Any exceptions, e.g., resulting from previous relationships with such contractors, independent of your current position, should be submitted to and approved by the System’s Director of Internal Audit. The Director of Internal Audit should make such disclosures and receive exception approval from the System’s Vice President of Finance.
A nepotism provision prohibits an agency head from employing a member of his immediate family, but contains a “grandfather” clause permitting the continued employment of those who were employed in such situations on the effective date of the Act. (Code of Governmental Ethics – Nepotism)
Provision for Agency Heads
The ethics law sets high standards for preventive measures to be taken by agency heads. It requires each agency head to file confidential reports with the Ethics Commission “on any matters that come to his or her attention which he/she believes may constitute a violation” of the code. Moreover, each agency head is required to “immediately take disciplinary action against any employee under his or her supervision” when ordered to do so by the Commission.
Failure of an agency head to carry out an order of the Commission will subject him/her to penalties similar to those applicable to employees under the law and may result in the immediate suspension of the agency head’s salary and fringe benefits.
Former agency heads are forbidden from accepting compensation for assisting another individual in a transaction, or in an appearance in connection with a transaction, before their former agency for a period of two years after the termination of the agency head’s employment with the agency.
Former public employees are similarly forbidden from assisting another individual in a transaction in which the former public employee participated at any time during the period of public employment.
The Ethics Commission is empowered to cancel or suspend a contract entered into by a state agency if the Commission finds that a violation of the code has influenced the awarding of the contract.