Building on the principles of the Ethics Act, the University has adopted policies that regulate the outside work that may be undertaken by UW faculty and staff to ensure that such work does not conflict with their official responsibilities. Separate policies govern the outside work for faculty and for staff, establishing for each group slightly different boundaries and processes for approval. These policies can be found at the links below:
2. Sources of Guidance and Support
3. Special Considerations for UW Leaders on Outside Boards
When a University leader is invited to serve on the board of directors of an outside entity, the individual should pay particular attention to the possible ethics issues and the risk to the University from real or perceived conflicts that can be triggered by such high profile activities. While having a UW leader serve on an outside board can have collateral benefits to the University and its mission, this activity can also bring difficult legal and ethical complications, such as those discussed below. In addition, the individual should assess whether such service may produce unwelcome public relations issues.
It is important to realize that board membership, whether compensated or not, can create a prohibited conflict of interest. As discussed above, the Ethics Act bars employees from having personal financial interests in official transactions. But it also specifically prohibits a state employee from “participating” in any transaction between the state and a company for which the employee is “an officer, agent, employee, or member….” As a result, serving on the board of an outside entity creates a personal interest that must be carefully managed, even if that service is done on a volunteer basis. A written conflict management plan can be an important part of addressing the possibility of such conflicts.
Careful management of time and resources is also a challenge when serving on an outside board. The Ethics Act prohibits the use of University time, computers, and other resources for non-University purposes. The duties that come with membership on the board of an outside entity can sometimes demand actions during the employee’s normal work day making it difficult to handle them in a way that avoids the improper use of University resources. Beyond this, policy questions may arise when the time of an already-busy University leader appears to be getting stretched too far.