Main content

Alert message

I.  OVERVIEW OF POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE INTENT

This ethics policy prescribes standards of conduct for all Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) officers and employees (herein the term employee or its plural shall include both the singular and plural, and means both officers and employees).

It is the policy of this state that a state officer or state employee may not have a direct or indirect interest, including financial and other interests, or engage in a business transaction or professional activity, or incur any obligation of any nature that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the officer's or employee's duties in the public interest.

This policy, and the state law on which it is premised, provides standards of conduct and disclosure requirements to be observed by persons owing a responsibility to the people and government of this state in the performance of their official duties.

It is the intent of the legislature that the Ethics Law, Texas Government Code Chpt. 571, serve not only as a guide for official conduct of those persons but also as a basis for discipline of those who refuse to abide by its terms.  It is also the intent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Board of Trustees that this policy serve as the implementation of the legislature’s goal set out in Tex. Gov. Code § 571.001.  This policy shall, to the extent necessary, implement the requirements of Local Government Code Chpt. 176.

This ethics policy does not supersede any applicable federal or Texas law or administrative rule. Furthermore, whenever there is a conflict between the Ethics Law and this policy, the Ethics Law shall take precedence.  Whenever a conflict exists between the Ethics Law or this policy and Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code, the Ethics Law and/or this policy shall take precedence.

All TSBVI employees must familiarize themselves with this ethics policy.

All TSBVI employees must abide by all applicable federal and Texas laws, administrative rules, and TSBVI conduct policies, including this ethics policy.  A TSBVI employee who violates any provision of the TSBVI’s conduct policies is subject to termination of the employee’s state employment or another employment-related sanction.  A TSBVI employee who violates any applicable federal or Texas law or rule may be subject to civil or criminal penalties in addition to any employment-related sanction.  It is the intent of the TSBVI Board of Trustees that this policy  shall serve as the written ethics policy required by Texas Government Code § 572.051(c)(1).

TSBVI shall distribute a copy of this ethics policy and a copy of Texas Government Code Chpt. 572 (Ethic Law) to:

  1. each new employee not later than the third business day after the date the person begins employment with the agency; and
  2. each new officer not later than the third business day after the date the person qualifies for office.

II.  DEFINITIONS

  1. “Ethics law” shall mean the law found in Chapter 572 of the Texas Government Code.
  2. The term “officer” means an officer of a state agency who is appointed for a term of office specified by the a statute of this state and specifically includes the members of the Board of Trustees appointed to serve in such capacity pursuant to Texas Education Code § 30.002(a).  Herein the term employee shall include the term “officer.”  Tex. Gov't Code § 572.002
  3. The term “officer” also means the director, executive director, commissioner, administrator, chief clerk, or other individual who is appointed by the governing body or highest officer of the state agency to act as the chief executive or administrative officer of the agency and who is not an appointed officer and specifically includes the Superintendent (Executive Head) of the TSBVI.   Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 572.002(5)
  4. The phrase “Local Government Officer” means:
    1. a member of the governing body of a local governmental entity;
    2. a director, superintendent, administrator, president, or other person designated as the executive officer of a local governmental entity; or
    3. an agent of a local governmental entity who exercises discretion in the planning, recommending, selecting, or contracting of a vendor .
  5. Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 176.001

III.  STANDARDS OF CONDUCT:  ETHICS POLICY

  1. Requirements of officers and employees.

    A TSBVI officer or employee shall not:

    1. accept or solicit any gift, favor, or service that might reasonably tend to influence the employee in the discharge of official duties, or that the employee knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence the employee’s official conduct;
    2. intentionally or knowingly solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit for having exercised his or her official powers or performed his or her official duties in favor of another;
    3. disclose confidential information, information that is excepted from public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act (Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. ch. 552), or information that has been ordered sealed by a court, that was acquired by reason of the employee’s official position, or accept other employment, including self-employment, or engage in a business, charity, nonprofit organization, or professional activity that the employee might reasonably expect would require or induce the employee to disclose confidential information, information that is excepted from public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act, or information that has been ordered sealed by a court, that was acquired by reason of the employee’s official position;
    4. accept other employment, including self-employment, or compensation or engage in a business, charity, nonprofit organization, or professional activity that could reasonably be expected to impair the employee’s independence of judgment in the performance of the employee’s official duties;
    5. make personal investments, or have a personal or financial interest, that could reasonably be expected to create a substantial conflict between the employee’s private interest and the public interest;
    6. utilize state time, property, facilities, or equipment for any purpose other than official state business, unless such use is reasonable and incidental and does not result in any direct cost to the state or TSBVI, interfere with the employee’s official duties, and interfere with TSBVI functions;
    7. utilize his or her official position, or state issued items, such as a badge, indicating such position for financial gain, obtaining privileges, or avoiding consequences of illegal acts;
    8. knowingly make misleading statements, either oral or written, or provide false information, in the course of official state business; or
    9. engage in any political activity while on state time or utilize state resources for any political activity.
  2. An TSBVI employee shall:
    1. perform his or her official duties in a lawful, professional, and ethical manner befitting the state and TSBVI; and
    2. report any conduct or activity that the employee believes to be in violation of this ethics policy to the Superintendent or his designee.
  3. To the extent that there is no conflict with the provisions of this policy or the Ethics Law, TSBVI employees who are local government officers shall also be governed by the provisions of Texas Local Government Code chpt. 176.  Whenever a conflict arises between either this policy or the Ethics Law and Local Government Code chpt. 176, the Ethics Law and/or this policy shall govern.

AFFIDAVIT DISCLOSING INTEREST IN PROPERTY

If a public servant has a legal or equitable interest in any property that is to be acquired with public funds, and has actual notice of the acquisition or intended acquisition of the property, the public servant shall file an affidavit as follows:

  1. The affidavit shall be filed with the county clerks of the county or counties in which the property is located and of the county in which the public servant resides within ten days before the date on which the property is to be acquired by purchase or condemnation.
  2. The affidavit must:
    1. State the name of the public servant and the public office title of job designation held or sought.
    2. Fully describe the property.
    3. Fully describe the nature, type, and amount of interest in the property, including the percentage of ownership interest and the date the interest was acquired.
    4. Include a verification of the truth of the information in the affidavit.  [See BBFA (EXHBIT)]
    5. Include an acknowledgement of the same type required for recording a deed in the deed records of a county.

Gov’t Code 553.002

Violations:  Criminal Penalty; Presumption

A public servant who fails to file the affidavit when required is presumed to have the intent to commit an offense.  An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.  Gov’t Code 553.003

TRUSTEE FINANCIAL STATEMENT

  1. Not later than April 30 each year, a member of the School’s Board of Trustees as a state officer shall file the financial statement as required by Tx. Govt. Code Chapter 572, Subchapter B:  Personal Financial Statement.
  2. An individual who is appointed or employed as the executive head of a state agency (i.e. TSBVI) shall file a financial statement not later than the 45th day after the date on which the individual assumes the duties of the position.  A state agency shall immediately notify the commission of the appointment or employment of an executive head of the agency.
  3. An individual state officer required to file a financial statement may request the Texas Ethics Commission to grant an extension of not more than 60 days for filing the statement.  The commission shall grant the request if it is received before the filing deadline or if the timely filing or request for extension is prevented because of physical or mental incapacity.  The commission may not grant more than one extension to an individual in one year except for good cause shown.

Gov’t Code 572.026

Exceptions from Filing of a Verified Financial Statement

 Officers and covered employees of TSBVI are exempt from filing the required verified financial statement under the following circumstances:

  1. An officer who resigns from office and who ceases to participate in the state agency’s (TSBVI’s) functions is not required to file a financial statement that is due because of service in that office after the date of resignation.
  2. An officer whose term of office expires and who ceases to participate in the functions of the state agency (TSBVI) is not required to file a financial statement that is due because of service in that office after the date the term of office expires.
  3. An officer of a state agency that is abolished or whose functions are transferred to another state agency is not required to file a financial statement that is due because of service after the date that the agency is abolished or the functions of the agency are transferred.
  4. An officer who resigns or whose term of office expires who does not intend to participate in the functions of the state agency (TSBVI) shall deliver written notice of the officer’s intention to the governor and the commission.

Gov’t Code 572.0211

Required Components

  1. A financial statement must include an account of the financial activity of the individual required by this subchapter to file a financial statement and an account of the financial activity of the individual’s spouse and dependent children if the individual had actual control over that activity for the preceding calendar year.
  2. The account of financial activity consists of:
    1. a list of all sources of occupational income, identified by employer, or if self-employed, by the nature of the occupation, including identification of a person or other organization from which the individual or a business in which the individual had a substantial interest received a fee as a retainer for a claim on future services in case of need, as distinguished from a fee for services on a matter specified at the time of contracting for or receiving the fee, if professional or occupational services are not actually performed during the reporting period equal to or in excess of the amount of the retainer, and the category of the amount of the fee;
    2. identification by name and the category of the number of shares of stock of any business entity held or acquired, and if sold, the category of the amount of net gain or loss realized from the sale;
    3. a list of all bonds, notes, and other commercial paper held or acquired, and if sold, the category of the amount of net gain or loss realized from the sale;
    4. identification of each source and the category of the amount of income in excess of $500 derived from each source from interest, dividends, royalties, and rents;
    5. identification of each guarantor or a loan and identification of each person or financial institution to whom a person note or notes or lease agreement for a total financial liability in excess of $1,000 existed at any time during the year and the category of the amount of the liability;
    6. identification by description of all beneficial interests in real property and business entities held or acquired, and if sold, the category of the amount of the net gain or loss realized from the sale;
    7. identification of a person or other organization from which the individual or the individual’s spouse or dependent children received a gift of anything of value in excess of $250 and a description of each gift, except:
      1. a gift received from an individual related to the individual at any time within the second degree by consanguinity or affinity, as determined under Subchapter B, Chapter 573;
      2. a political contribution that was reported as required by Chapter 254, Election Code; and
      3. an expenditure required to be reported by a person required to be registered under Chapter 305;
    8. identification of the source and the category of the amount of all income received as beneficiary of a trust, other than a blind trust that complies with Subsection (c), and identification of each trust asset, if known to the beneficiary, from which income was received by the beneficiary in excess of $500;
    9. identification by description and the category of the amount of all assets and liabilities of a corporation, firm, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, professional corporation, professional association, joint venture, or other business association in which 50 percent or more of the outstanding ownership was held, acquired, or sold;
    10. a list of all boards of directors of which the individual is a member and executive positions that the individual holds in corporations, firms, partnerships, limited partnership, limited liability
      partnership, professional corporation, professional association, joint venture, or other business associations or proprietorships, stating the name of each corporation, firm, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, professional corporation, professional association, joint venture, or other business associations or proprietorship and the position held.
    11. identification of any person providing transportation, meals, or lodging expenses permitted under Section 36.07(b), Penal Code, and the amount of those expenses, other than expenditures required to be reported under Chapter 305;
    12. any corporation, firm, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, professional corporation, professional association, joint venture, or other business association, excluding a publicly held corporation, in which both the individual and a person registered under Chapter 305 have an interest;
    13. identification by name and the category of the number of shares of any mutual fund held or acquired, and if sold, the category of the amount of net gain or loss realized from the sale; and
    14. identification of each blind trust that complies with Subsection (c), including;
      1. the category of the fair market value of the trust;
      2. the date the trust was created;
      3. the name and address of the trustee; and
      4. a statement signed by the trustee, under penalty of perjury, stating that:
        1. the trustee has not revealed any information to the individual, except information that may be disclosed under Subdivision (8); and
        2. to the best of the trustee’s knowledge, the trust complies with this section.
  3. For purposes of Subsections (b)(8) and (14), a blind trust is a trust as to which:
    1. the trustee:
      1. is a disinterested party;
      2. is not the individual;
      3. is not required to register as a lobbyist under Chapter 305;
      4. is not a public officer or public employee; and
      5. was not appointed to public office by the individual or by a public officer or public employee the individual supervises; and
    2. the trustee has complete discretion to manage the trust, including the power to dispose of and acquire trust assets without consulting or notifying the individual.
  4. If a blind trust under Subsection (c) is revoked while the individual is subject to this subchapter, the individual must file an amendment to the individual’s most recent financial statement, disclosing the date of revocation and the previously unreported value by category of each asset and the income derived from each asset.

Gov’t Code 572.023

Reporting Amount Requirements

  1. If an amount in a financial statement is required to be reported by category, the individual filing the statement shall report whether the amount is
    1. less than $5,000;
    2. at least $5,000 but less than $10,000;
    3. at least $10,000 but less than $25,000; or
    4. $25,000 or more.
  2. The individual filing the statement shall report an amount by stock by category of number of shares instead of by category of dollar value and shall report whether the amount is:
    1. less than 100 shares;
    2. at least 100 but less than 500 shares;
    3. at least 500 but less than 1,000 shares;
    4. At least 1,000 but less than 5,000 shares;
    5. at least 5,000 but less than 10,000 shares;
    6. 10,000 shares or more.
  3. The individual filing the statement shall report a description of real property by reporting;
    1. the street address, if available, or the number of lots or number of acres, as applicable, in each county and the name of the county if the street address is not available; and
    2. the names of all persons retaining an interest in the property, excluding an interest that is a severed mineral interest.
  4. For a gift of cash or a cash equivalent such as a negotiable instrument or gift certificate that is reported in accordance with Subsection 572.023(b)(7), the individual filing the statement shall include in the description of the gift a statement of the value of the gift.

Gov’t Code 572.022

Note:   See also CBB for requirements when federal funds are involved.

Timeliness of Filing

The deadline for filing the required financial statement is 5:00 p.m. of the last day designated in the applicable provision for filing the statement.  If the last day for filing the statement is a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday included under Subchapter B, Chapter 662 of Tx. Govt. Code, the statement is timely if filed on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or listed holiday.  Tx. Govt. Code 572.029

Electronic Filing Required

A financial statement filed with the Texas Ethics Commission must be filed by electronic means using computer software provided by the commission or that meets the commission’s specifications.

Adopted:          5/8/81
Amended:        6/29/84, 1/14/88, 1/26/90, 11/30/90, 3/27/92, 11/13/92, 1/20/95, 1/24/97, 11/6/98, 11/22/02, 9/22/06, 9/20/13, 9/30/16
Reviewed: