It is the policy of the State of Texas and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired 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.
Failure of an officer or employee to abide by this policy shall serve as a basis for disciplinary action.
Tx. Gov’t Code §572.001
STANDARDS OF CONDUCT
A TSBVI employee may not:
- Accept, or solicit, any gift, favor, or service that might reasonably tend to influence the officer, or employee, in the discharge of official duties, or that the officer, or employee, knows, or should know, is being offered with the intent to influence the officer’s, or employee’s, official conduct.
- Accept other employment, or engage in a business, or professional, activity that the officer, or employee, might reasonably expect would require, or induce, the officer, or employee, to disclose confidential information acquired by reason of the official position.
- Accept other employment, or compensation, that could reasonably be expected to impair the officer’s, or employee’s, independence of judgment in the performance of the officer’s, or employee’s, official duties;
- Make personal investments that could reasonably be expected to create a substantial conflict between the officer’s, or employee’s, private interest and the public interest; or
- Intentionally, or knowingly, solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit for having exercised the officer’s or employee’s official powers, or performed the officer’s, or employee’s, official duties in favor of another.
Tx. Gov’t Code §572.051
PROHIBITED USES OF STATE APPROPRIATED MONEYS
The following prohibitions apply to the activities of the School and its individual officers and employees:
- None of the moneys appropriated by the General Appropriations Act, regardless of their source or character, shall be used for influencing the outcome of any election, or the passage, or defeat, of any legislative measure. This prohibition shall not be construed to prevent any official, or employee of the School, from furnishing to any member of the legislature, or committee, upon request, or to any other state official, or employee, or to any citizen information in the hands of the employee, or official, not considered under law to be confidential information. Any action taken against an employee, or officer, for supplying such information shall subject the person initiating the action to immediate dismissal from employment at the School.
- No funds under the control of the School, including but not limited to state appropriate funds, may be used directly, or indirectly, to hire employees, or in any other way fund, or support, candidates for the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of government of the State of Texas, or the government of the United States.
- None of the funds appropriated by the Appropriations Act shall be expended in payment of the salary for full-time employment of any state employee who is also the paid lobbyist of any individual, firm, association, or corporation. None of the funds appropriated by this act shall be expended in payment of the partial salary of a part-time employee who is required to register as a lobbyist by virtue of the employee’s activities for compensation by, or on behalf of, industry, a profession or association related to operation of the agency, or institution, for which the person is employed. A part-time employee may serve as a lobbyist on behalf of industry, a profession, or association, so long as such entity is not related to the agency with which he, or she, is employed.
- No employee of the School shall use any state-owned automobile, except on official business of the state, and such employees are expressly prohibited from using such automobile in connection with any political campaign, or any personal, or recreational activity.
- None of the moneys appropriated by the Appropriation’s Act shall be paid to any official, or employee, who violates any of the above provisions.
General Appropriations Act, Article IX, Section 5.
AVOIDANCE OF APPEARANCE OF LEGAL OR POLICY VIOLATIONS
Officers and employees shall avoid any actions that would create the appearance that they are violating the law, or the ethical standards contained in this policy.
USE OF SCHOOL CREDIT CARDS
School officers and employees may not use School credit cards for personal expenses. School credit cards may only be used for legitimate School business expenses. Payment of charges on individual cases is the sole responsibility of the officer, or employee. The School shall not be responsible for the charges, regardless of the type of charge. Officers and employees may use School credit cards to charge items that, while they qualify as official business, are not fully reimbursable under State and/or School guidelines for reimbursement.
ACCEPTANCE OF HONORARIA
School officers and employees may not solicit, accept, or agree to accept an honorarium in consideration for services they would not have been asked to provide but for their official position, or duties. This prohibition includes a request for, or acceptance of, a payment made to a third party in exchange for such services.
School officers and employees may accept the direct provision of or meals, or lodging provided, or reimbursement of actual expenses incurred in connection with a speaking engagement at a conference, or similar event in which the public servant renders services, such as addressing an audience or engaging in a seminar, to the extent those services are more than merely perfunctory.
See Texas Penal Code §36.07
DUAL OFFICE HOLDING
School officers and employees may hold other positions of employment with agencies, boards, commissions, or other entities of government, so long as the holding of such positions is consistent with the prohibitions against dual office holding in the Texas Constitution. Consulting arrangements with federal, state, or local governmental agencies of a detached and independent advisory nature are not considered to be appointments with such agencies.
Full-time School employees are expected to devote their time and talents on a full-time basis to their assigned duties and responsibilities. Employees may accept outside employment, if the employment:
- Does not interfere with the quality of performance of the employee.
- Is reasonable in the amount of time taken for outside employment and its related activities.
- Avoids unfair competition with legitimate private enterprises.
- Does not bring an employee into conflict with the interests of the State of Texas, or the School.
- Does not depend on, or is not associated with, the employee’s employment with the School.
- Is approved under any guidelines the Superintendent may establish.
All School officers and “employees who exercise appointive power” are prohibited from appointing, voting for, or confirming the appointment of any person related to such employee within the third degree of consanguinity, or within the second degree of affinity, when the salary, or compensation, for such person is to be paid from public funds.
This prohibition does not apply if the person who is related to the School employee exercising appointive power has been continuously employed in the office, or position, for at least thirty days prior to appointment, or employment, of the officer, or employee. If an individual continues in a position, the public officer or employee to whom the individual is related in a prohibited degree may not participate in any deliberation or voting on the appointment or reappointment, employment, reemployment, change in status compensation or dismissal of the individual if that action applies only to the individual and is not taken regarding a bona fide class or category of employees.
Tx. Gov’t. Code §573.041; 573.062
PROTECTION OF PUBLIC PROPERTY
State property may be used only for state purposes. Officers and employees are prohibited from using state property other than for authorized activities. State property includes computers and other electronic equipment issued, assigned, or otherwise accessible to the employee. Tx. Gov’t Code §2203.004
Officers and employees may not entrust state property to any state official, or employee, or to anyone else to be used for other than state purposes. School officers and employees shall not use School equipment, or property, for their own benefit unless:
- The use also benefits the School and has been approved in advance by the Superintendent, or his/her designee(s), and suitable arrangements have been made in advance for payment of the agreed upon value of the use of such property; or
- The property consists of books from the library, recreational facilities and other such items of well-established usage that are authorized for use by the Superintendent, or his/her designee(s).
PROPERTY MANAGER – PROPERTY INVENTORY
- The Superintendent is responsible for the custody and care of property in TSBVI’s possession.
- The Superintendent designated the agency’s Director of Support Services as the TSBVI’s property manager and informed the comptroller of the designation. Subject to comptroller approval, more than one property manager may be designated.
- The TSBVI Director of Support Services shall maintain the records required and be the custodian of all property possessed by TSBVI.
- When TSBVI property is entrusted to a person other than the Director of Support Services, the person to whom the property is entrusted shall provide a written receipt to the manager. TSBVI may lend its property to another state agency only if the Superintendent lending the property provides written authorization for the lending. The head of the agency to which the property is lent must execute a written receipt.
- TSBVI shall conduct an annual physical inventory of all property in its possession. The comptroller may specify the date on which the inventory must be conducted.
- Not later than the date prescribed by the comptroller, the Superintendent shall submit to the comptroller:
- a signed statement describing the methods used to conduct TSBVI’s annual physical inventory under Subsection (e);
- a copy of the results of the inventory; and
- any other information concerning the inventory that the comptroller requires.
- At all times, TSBVI property records of the School must be accurately reflect the property possessed by the School. Property may be deleted from the School’s records only in accordance with rules adopted by the comptroller.
- The state auditor, based on a risk assessment and subject to the legislative audit committee’s approval of including the examination in the audit plan under Section 321.013, may periodically examine property records or inventory as necessary to determine if controls are adequate to safeguard state property.
Tex. Gov’t Code §403.273
TELEPHONES, PHOTOCOPY MACHINES AND OTHER COMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT
TSBVI officers and employees may make occasional personal use of communications equipment, including but not limited to the telephone, e-mail, computer, or facsimile machine during working hours as long as such use does not hinder the day-to-day operation of an office, department, or other area of the School, or unduly interfere with the officer’s, or employee’s, assigned responsibilities.
Use of telephones, facsimile machines, photocopiers, computers, electronic mail and other means of communication is a prohibited use of state equipment if it results in additional costs to the School, including, but not limited to, long distance charges, or damage to the equipment.
See Texas Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 372
MISUSE OF AUTHORITY
It is a violation of state law for School officers and employees acting with the intent to obtain a benefit or, with intent to harm another, to intentionally or knowingly, misapply anything of value belonging to the government that comes into their custody or possession by virtue of their office or employment.
The Superintendent shall develop procedures to implement this policy.
USE OF WORK TIME
Except as set forth above, employees may not engage in non-work related personal activities during time designated as work time. Administrators and supervisors are prohibited from requesting, or requiring, any employee, including any employee under their respective direction, to perform non-work related personal activities for them during time designated as work time.
DISTRIBUTION OF POLICY
The Superintendent shall ensure that each school officer and employee receives a copy of this policy and provides the School with a receipt therefor.
Amended: 1/23/98, 1/28/00, 4/6/18