As public employees, University of Washington staff, faculty and other academic personnel are bound by certain regulations and a code of ethics. As such, we must all comply with the Ethics in Public Service Act, details of which are included later in this message and which preclude actions such as the use of University resources for political purposes.
At the same time, the University supports faculty, staff and students exercising their right to vote. The Ethics Act does not prevent University leaders from providing employees with information that supports state initiatives and promotes organizational effectiveness. This includes sharing information related to the Secretary of State's VoteWA initiative that encourages all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote, as well as information on voter registration provided by UW Libraries. Additionally, because learning about ways to participate in civic life is important to our students' education, President Cauce has signed on to the All in Campus Democracy Challenge and Student Life has provided students with information and resources on voting.
This message serves as our annual reminder of the Ethics in Public Service Act, which defines the administrative guidelines for anti-kickback, conflict of interest and use of university resources regulations for all state of Washington employees. All UW employees are responsible for being familiar with and understanding the state Ethics Act. It is important that all UW employees understand the rules governing personal use of university resources, financial conflict of interest, and the protection of confidential information.
With national, state, and local elections approaching, it is especially timely to point out the UW Administrative Policy Statement 47.2 addressing Personal Use of University Facilities, Computers, and Equipment by University Employees. The key message of this policy is “University employees may not use state resources (including any person, money, or property) under their official control or direction or in their custody, for personal benefit or gain, or for the benefit or gain of any other individuals or outside organization”. This includes the use of email, phones, copiers and copy paper, and any other university resources.
This policy also addresses “communications resulting from University computers and equipment may be subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act, in litigation involving the University, or for audit purposes”. Any communications via any media whether it be email, phone, internet, social media or written correspondence, if it is completed using university resources, it is subject to public disclosure. This means if you are using your personal laptop or phone for university business, it is subject to public disclosure.
Further prohibited use of university resources also includes “assisting an election campaign, promoting or opposing a ballot proposition or initiative, or lobbying the state legislature”. This includes, but is not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment; vehicles; office space; publications of the agency; and clientele lists of persons served by the agency, as well as your University title. If you wish to use your University title or affiliation in any publication, blog, or other communication related to an election campaign, ballot measure, or initiative, then you must ensure that a disclaimer is included stating that this is your personal opinion, not that of the UW.
Violations of the Ethics in Public Service Act are subject to disciplinary action, including fines up to $5,000 per incident. The University has established the Financial Fraud & Ethics Hotline, which is accessible by all to ensure the UW continues to operate at the highest level of ethical responsibility.
All employees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the details of the Ethics in Public Service Act by learning more through the following resources:
- Ethics in Public Service Act
- UW Administrative Policy Statement 47.1 – Summary of the State Employee Whistleblower Act
- UW Administrative Policy Statement 47.2 – Personal Use of University Facilities, Computers, and Equipment by University Employees
- UW Administrative Policy Statement 47.3 – Outside Consulting Activities and Part-Time Employment by Professional or Classified Staff Employees
- UW Executive Order No. 57 – Outside Professional Work Policy
- UW Compliance Resources
If you have additional questions, please contact UW Internal Audit at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-543-4028. Or contact Richard Cordova, Executive Director of Internal Audit and UW designated Agency Ethics Advisor, at email@example.com.