Chapter 4: Business & Administration04:10:00 Conflicts of Interest
(TBR Policy 1:02:03:10)
All members of the Tennessee Board of Regents and all employees serve a public interest role and thus have a clear obligation to conduct all affairs of the system in a manner consistent with this concept. Decisions are to be based upon promoting the best interest of the system and the public good.
- Scope: This policy shall apply to all persons serving as members of the Board of Regents and to all persons employed (either as full time, part time, or temporary employees) by the Tennessee Board of Regents and its constituents.
- General Policy Statement: It is the policy of the Tennessee Board of Regents that both Regents and employees should avoid situations where the self interests of the Regent or employee diverge from the best interests of the Tennessee Board of Regents and its institutions (conflicts of interest). The mere existence of either a potential or actual conflict of interest does not mean that such conflict must necessarily be eliminated. Where the potential detriment to the Tennessee Board of Regents and/or the institution is at most minor and inconsequential, and the conflict does not indicate violation of Federal or State law, regulation, or policy, those persons charged with evaluating disclosures should allow the activity to proceed without interference. For those situations which do not implicate Federal or State law, regulation, or policy, the standard by which it should be determined whether a conflict of interest should be managed, reduced, or eliminated is whether that conflict would appear to a reasonable person to call into question the integrity or judgment of the affected employee.
- Situations and activities creating a conflict of interest: In the following situations and activities, there is at least the appearance, and possibly the actuality, of an employee allowing his or her personal interests, and not the best interests of the Tennessee Board of Regents and its institutions, to affect that employee's judgment. This list is illustrative, and not exhaustive:
- Self dealing: Situations in which an employee can appear to influence or actually influence an institutionally related decision from which that person or a member of that person's family stands to realize a personal financial benefit is self dealing and a conflict of interest. Examples of self-dealing activities include, but are not limited to:
- institutional purchases from businesses in which an employee or family member has a financial interest,
- the use of educational materials from which a faculty member derives financial benefit in that faculty member’s teaching activities, and
- the acceptance of gifts, gratuities, or favors. No employee shall knowingly solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, on behalf of himself or herself or any member of the employee’s household, for personal use or consumption, any gift, including but not limited to any gratuity, service, favor, food entertainment, lodging, transportation, loan, loan guarantee, or any other thing of monetary value from any person or entity that has or is seeking to obtain contractual or other business or financial relations with Northeast State or has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee.
- Exceptions: The prohibition on accepting gifts does not apply to:
- A gift given by a member of the employee’s immediate family or by an individual if the gift is given for a non-business purpose and is motivated by a close personal friendship and not the position of the employee;
- Sample merchandise, promotional items, and appreciation tokens, if they are routinely given to customers, suppliers, or potential customers or suppliers in the ordinary course of business, including items distributed at tradeshows and professional meetings where vendors display and promote their services and products;
- Food, refreshments, foodstuffs, entertainment, or beverages provided as part of a meal or other event, including tradeshows and professional meetings, if the value of such items does not exceed fifty dollars ($50.00) per occasion; provided further, that the value of a gift may not be reduced below the monetary limit by dividing the cost of the gift among two or more persons or entities.
- There may be circumstances where refusal or reimbursement of a gift (such as a lunch or dinner) may be awkward and contrary to the larger interests of the institution. In such circumstances, the employee is to use his or her best judgment, and disclose the gift including a description, estimated value, the person or entity providing the gift, and any explanation necessary within fourteen (14) days to their immediate supervisor.
- Inappropriate use of students or support staff: Employees shall ensure that the activities of students or support staff are not exploited for the benefit of any external activity of the faculty member.
- Inappropriate use of State owned resources: Employees may not make significant use of State owned facilities, equipment, materials, or other resources, not otherwise available to the public, in the course of activities which are not related to the institution and which are intended for personal benefit, without prior disclosure and approval.
- Failure to disclose intellectual property: TBR Policy 5:01:06:00 oversees the rights and responsibilities which persons affiliated with the Board and its institutions have regarding intellectual property developed during the term of their affiliation with the Tennessee Board of Regents.
- General Disclosure Requirements: Persons to whom this policy applies who believe that a conflict of interest may exist either personally or with respect to another person covered by this policy shall make a written disclosure of the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation. No particular format is required, but the disclosure should adequately describe the pertinent facts and circumstances. At community colleges, disclosures shall be submitted to the employee's immediate supervisor or other person designated by the president to receive such disclosures. Disclosures made by the president shall be submitted to the General Counsel.
- Review of Disclosure: Each Tennessee Board of Regents institution shall establish at least one Disclosure Review Committee comprised of no fewer than three persons to receive and evaluate disclosures. (A member of the committee making a disclosure shall not be entitled to vote regarding disposition of the disclosure.) Following evaluation of the discloser, the Committee shall render a decision regarding the issue(s) presented by the disclosure. Any disclosure which indicates an actual violation of law shall be forwarded to the president along with the Committee's findings.
Persons potentially committing a conflict of interest violation under consideration by the Disclosure Review Committee shall receive notice of the Committee's evaluation and be given an opportunity to appear before the Committee.
- Sanctions: Failure to observe restrictions imposed as a result of review of a conflict of interest disclosure or a knowing failure to disclose a conflict of interest may result in disciplinary proceedings under TBR and institutional policy.
- Appeals: Decisions made by the institutional Disclosure Review Committee may be appealed to the president. Decisions of the president shall be final and binding.
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Revision History: September 2002 (Implemented), July 2004