Friday, December 5, 2014

Ethics Advisors Wanted

Did you know that in 2013 the Legislature added a new section to RCW 42.52 requiring all state agency's to designate an ethics advisor?

RCW 42.52.365 Executive branch agencies — Ethics advisors — Ethics training.

(1) Each executive branch agency shall designate an ethics advisor or advisors to assist the agency's employees in understanding their obligations under the ethics in public service act. Agencies shall inform the executive ethics board of their designated advisors. As funding permits and as determined by the executive ethics board and the agency head, the advisors shall receive regular ethics training.

(2) Executive branch officers and employees are encouraged to attend ethics training offered by the executive ethics board at least once every thirty-six months.

Our Ethics Advisors play the important role of assisting agency employees in understanding their obligations under the Ethics in Public Service Act and are our first contact in sharing information.

Contact us if you have any questions about who your agency advisor may be or if you'd like to appoint an advisor for your agency.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lending a helping hand

As the holiday season approaches, you or your agency may be gearing up to help those in need by adopting a family or needy child. While this outpouring of generosity is a wonderful testament to your thoughtful and caring spirit, there are some ethical issues that you need to be aware of to make sure that your actions do not violate the Ethics in Public Service Act:
  1. Can you use state resources to support charities? The limited use of state resources to support charities may be allowed if an agency head or his/her designee approves the activity as one that promotes organizational effectiveness. Such uses shall be specifically authorized in writing and any use shall strictly conform to specific agency guidance. (See WAC 292-110-010(2))
  2. What is meant by "Organizational effectiveness?" Organizational effectiveness relates to an agency's mission and encompasses activities that enhance or augment the agency's ability to perform its mission. State agencies may allow employees to participate in activities that are not offical state duties but promote organizational effectiveness by supporting a collegial work environment, so long as the employees who participate in the activity limit their use of state resources. While the Ethics Act normally prohibits the use of state resources to support outside organizations or groups, including charities, unless the support is part of the agency's official duties, WAC 292-110-010(2) allows agency heads to nevertheless approve a de minimis use of state resources for activity that promotes organizational effectiveness even if that activity may incidentally support a private organization. Agency heads are cautioned, however, that activity allowed under this rule may not involve a state agency's endorsement or promotion of a commercial activity such as advertising or selling products.
  3. Can you solicit donations for charitable events from outside businesses? The Ethics Act contains a very strong persumption against solicitation by you for any purpose, including charitable events. Solicitation by state employees can create the appearance that a donation might result in favorable treatment from the state and a failure to donate might result in unfavorable treatment. Therefore, you may not use your official state positions to solicit goods and services from private organization and businesses.
  4. Are there any other considerations I should take into account when conduting charitable solicitiations? Yes, avoid direct personal solicitations of your coworkers and colleagues and opt for voluntary participation. Managers and supervisors should always avoid direct personal soliciations of employees who work under their supervision.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Applying for Jobs

Can I apply for jobs (state, federal, private) on state time using my state computer? If so, how much time is reasonable and do I need my supervisor's permission? If the agency approved it, does the fact that I might be getting laid off from my job allow me to use more time so that I can stay in the state system?

Answer: State employees may, subject to the de minimis use rule, use a state computer to apply for other state jobs. Under WAC 357-31-325, a supervisor must allow a state employee to take paid leave to take state exams and participate in state interviews, but can, depending on agency policies, allow the state employee the ability to complete these tasks without taking leave. However, an agency does not have to grant paid leave if the time requested by the state employee becomes excessive.

A state employee may not use state resources (time and computer) to search for, apply for, prepare resumes and/or other correspondence for jobs outside of the state system. State employees and officers must use their own personal resources and time when seeking employment outside of the state system.

The same rules apply regardless of the reason for looking for the job. Employees who are being laid off due to budget cuts may attend state sponsored classes or training sessions per their agency's policies.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My co-worker is running for office and I want to help him get elected. What, if anything, can I do while at work?

Answer: The Ethics in Public Service Act states that no state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition. Knowing acquiescence by a person with the authority to direct, control, or influence the actions of the state officer or state employee using public resources for political campaigning is also a violation.

"Facilities" is broadly defined and includes agency office space and working hours. It also includes voicemail and email on state phones and computer systems. Personal clothing and personal vehicles, however, would not be considered an agency facility. Therefore, the Ethics Act would not absolutely prohibit an agency policy that permits wearing typical political buttons on an individual's clothing or affixing a political bumper sticker to a personal vehicle. If employees interact with the public they are urged to exercise caution because wearing political buttons while interacting with the public or displaying political signs in public areas, could result in prohibited campaigning or violate their agency policy.

Prohibited activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Using work hours to solicit signatures for ballot propositions, to raise funds for or against propositions or candidates, organize campaigns for propositions or candidates.
  • Displaying political material in or on state vehicles.
  • Displaying or distributing campaign material on state owned or operated premises.
You may campaign for or against a ballot proposition or candidate on your own personal time (this includes authorized leave time), away from the office. So, you can help your friend while you are not at work or using any state resources.