Conflict of Interest

The following are commonly asked questions regarding the Conflict of Interest Policy. Please click on the question to be directed to the relevant policy section.

  1. What is the university’s Conflict of Interest Policy?
  2. What is the purpose of having such a policy and to whom does the Conflict of Interest Policy apply?
  3. What are some examples of potential conflicts of interest?
  4. What are some examples of potential conflicts of interest that require disclosure and authorization?
  5. What is the process for disclosure of an actual or potential conflict of interest?
  6. How often must staff members certify that they have not identified any actual or potential conflicts of interest?
  7. What is the university’s process for resolving conflicts of interest?

 

A reputation for integrity is essential for constituent and public trust and confidence in University of Puget Sound, ensuring our ongoing success as identified in Puget Sound’s mission, core values, and goals. A reputation for integrity is also essential for such trust and confidence in individual staff members acting on behalf of the university.  Therefore, the university and its staff representatives have an obligation and commitment to constituents and to the public to conduct university activities properly. In order to maintain such trust and confidence, all staff members should use good judgment and conduct themselves ethically to protect both themselves and the university from actual or potential conflicts of interest.   This policy applies to an actual or potential conflict of interest, intentional or unintentional.  Staff members are expected to avoid situations that might cause their personal or professional interests to conflict with the interests of the university, or which may compromise the university’s reputation or integrity.

 

I.      Policy

The University of Puget Sound (the “university”) prohibits any conduct or activity that places a staff member’s personal, professional, financial, familial, proprietary, or other interests in conflict with the university’s best interests or contractual obligations. In addition, the university prohibits any conduct or activity that compromises a staff member’s decision-making in pursuit of the university’s mission, strategies, goals, or objectives.

 

II.    Eligibility and Scope 

The purpose of this policy is to outline situations in which conflicts of interest may occur and to specify a process for reporting and resolving actual or potential conflicts of interest.  This policy and the responsibility to self-disclose all actual or potential conflicts of interest are important components of the Standards of Integrity and Quality that are included in Puget Sound’s Code of Conduct. Compliance with this conflict of interest policy strengthens the university’s system of internal controls for safeguarding and stewardship of university assets and resources and for ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.  The policy also supports staff members in effectively executing their university roles and responsibilities. 

A conflict of interest exists whenever a person obtains private benefit or personal advantage due to a position of trust.

A potential conflict of interest is defined as any situation or circumstance which may qualify as or lead to a conflict of interest.

As defined above, a conflict of interest would exist if a staff member or a member of the staff member’s immediate family obtained benefit or personal gain as a result of the staff member’s position.  An immediate family member, for the purpose of this policy, shall include the staff member's spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, biological child, adopted child, foster child, step child, or sibling.

 

III.   Conflict of Interest Illustrations

The following circumstances illustrate some of the types of conflicts of interest that are prohibited or potential conflicts of interest that warrant disclosure by a staff member and require authorization.  “Authorization,” for the purpose of this policy, shall mean authorized by the staff member’s supervisor by the supervisor’s signature on the Disclosure Form. This list is illustrative only and does not identify every type of conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest.

     i.        Potential Conflicts of Interest

1. A conflict of interest would exist if a staff member pursued and/or maintained a non-university business interest, employment, and/or professional endeavor to such an extent as to interfere with the staff member’s performance of regular university duties.  Note: this policy is not meant to limit an individual’s professional development activities, educational activities authorized by the staff member’s supervisor, or other university-authorized outreach (for example, service to a professional association or providing incidental and non-privileged/non-proprietary advice to colleagues at other institutions of higher education).

2. A conflict of interest would exist if a staff member, directly or indirectly, influenced contractual matters or other operational matters between the university and other individuals or enterprises in which a personal, professional, financial, familial, proprietary, or other interest is involved.

3. A conflict of interest would exist if a staff member did not disclose familial relationships (see definition of “immediate family member” above) with staff members, faculty members, and/or students where one party to the relationship holds decisional authority, recommending authority, or influence over the academic, economic, or employment standing of the other party.

4. A conflict of interest would exist if a staff member solicited or accepted personal favors from other staff members, faculty members, and/or students in return for a positive performance review, financial consideration, change in employment status, or other consideration related to university operations.

5. A conflict of interest would exist if a staff member solicited or accepted personal favors, financial incentives, gifts or other goods, products or services in return for a contract, a positive referral or recommendation, access to privileged or proprietary information and intellectual property, employment, or other consideration related to university operations.

6. A conflict of interest would exist if a staff member  influenced, directly or indirectly, awarding or identifying the terms of a university contract or agreement with an external individual or enterprise because of a past, present, or future private benefit or personal advantage from the external individual or enterprise.

ii. Potential Conflicts of Interest Requiring Disclosure and Authorization

1. A potential conflict of interest would exist if a staff member, without authorization, accepted monetary, personal, or other favors from a person or enterprise with which the university conducts business, unless the items are unsolicited and de minimus.

Note: Unsolicited de minimus personal favors, financial incentives, gifts or other pecuniary goods, products or services (with a total value under $100 from a single source in any given year) need not be authorized in advance of acceptance or reported.  Unsolicited de minimus items might include vendor-provided business meals, holiday gifts, or logo items, the value of which is not materially significant to the recipient (a box of candy, a gift card for an espresso drink, the variety of individual office supply or token items vendors typically provide to clients, prospective clients, and conference attendees, etc.).  If a staff member is unsure as to whether the item is de minimus, this staff member should disclose the potential conflict of interest and request authorization from his or her immediate or higher-level supervisor. 

2. A potential conflict of interest would exist if a staff member, without authorization, used or disseminated privileged and/or proprietary university information or intellectual property gained through a position with the university for use in their pursuit or maintenance of non-university related businesses, employment, or other professional endeavor.

3. A potential conflict of interest would exist if a staff member, without authorization, used university facilities and resources for direct or indirect personal, professional, financial, familial, proprietary, or other advantage.

 

IV.  Disclosure

Self-disclosure is necessitated when a staff member identifies an actual or potential conflict of interest. To disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest, the staff member discusses the matter with his/her supervisor and completes the Conflict of Interest Disclosure and Authorization form.  Failure to disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest may result in corrective action up to and including termination.  In addition, supervisory personnel must not knowingly condone an actual or potential conflict of interest and are accountable for enforcing this policy by ensuring that information disclosed is handled in accordance with this policy. 

If a staff member identifies an actual or potential conflict of interest on the part of another staff member, the identifying staff member should consult with his/her immediate or higher-level supervisor, the Director of Employment and People Development in Human Resources, the Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Career and Employment Services, or the university Compliance Helpline at 866.943.5787. A staff member may consult with or report an actual or potential conflict of interest to any or all of the above referenced individuals or channels.

The Director of Employment and People Development is available to review and consult with any staff member who is uncertain as to whether a situation or circumstance constitutes an actual or potential conflict of interest. In all cases, however, the staff member remains responsible for self-disclosure.

 

V.    Annual Certification

Staff members will certify annually that they have identified no actual or potential conflicts or that any such conflicts have been fully disclosed and authorized in accordance with this policy.

Failure to disclose or resolve an actual or potential conflict of interest may result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

 

VI.  Resolving Conflict of Interests

Disclosed actual or potential conflicts of interest will be managed and resolved in a manner acceptable to the university and the staff member to the extent possible. However, the university reserves the right to manage and resolve the actual or potential conflict at its sole discretion.

 

Origination date: 09/1958

Revised: 1996, 1/2012