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3.2 Governance and Administration

Comprehensive Standard:

3.2.3 The governing board has a policy addressing conflict of interest for its members. (Board conflict of interest)

Statement of Compliance:   In Compliance.

Narrative:

As an agency of the State of Georgia, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and its individual members are subject to the rules and regulations pertaining to conflict of interest as defined in state law and Board of Regents Bylaws. The narrative for Core Requirement 2.2 covers the composition of the Board of Regents and its policy-making function. Offered here is a table that lists eight sections of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and two sections of the Bylaws of the Board of Regents that define and prohibit conflicts of interest for members of the Board of Regents. All Board of Regents members are appointed by the Governor of Georgia to serve as part-time public officials in their capacity on the governing board [1]. The above referenced table follows:

GEORGIA LAW AND REGENTS BYLAWS PROHIBITING

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST BY MEMBERS

OF THE BOARD OF REGENTS CITATION

FOCUS OF CITATION

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-1

Code of Ethics for Government Service for "any person" in government service

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-20

Definitions of "any person" and "public official" apply to appointed members of the Board of Regents

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-21

All public officials must be independent, impartial and free of conflicts of interest

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-22

Avoidance of conflicts of interest involving business transactions with the state

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-24

Part-time public officials are not permitted to do personal business with the state

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-26

Distinguishes between public officials and employees, but calls for full disclosure from both concerning business interests

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-40

Specific reference to Board of Regents members and conflicts of business interest

O.C.G.A. § 45-10-41

Penalties for Board of Regents member infractions involving conflict of interest

BOR Bylaws II: (2)

Board of Regents members cannot accept gifts or compensation

BOR Bylaws V: (2)

Board of Regents members cannot recommend persons for University System of Georgia employment

 

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-1) establishes a Code of Ethics for all persons in government service. It specifically cites several fundamental principles for the avoidance of conflict of interest upon which other sections of the Georgia Code and the Bylaws of the Board of Regents are based. For example, as relevant to conflict of interest, the code establishes that:

                "ny person in government service should:

V. Never discriminate unfairly by dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not, and never accept, for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties.

VII. Engage in no business with the government, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his governmental duties.

VIII. Never use any information coming to him confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for making private profit" [2]

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-20) establishes the jurisdiction of the definitions of "any person" and "public official" to include the members of the Board of Regents when it stipulates thus:

"(8) ‘Person’ means any person, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, firm, enterprise, franchise, association, organization, or other legal entity.

(9) ‘Public official’ means any person appointed to a state office where in the conduct of such office the person so appointed has administrative and discretionary authority to receive and expend public funds and to perform certain functions concerning the public which are assigned to him by law" [2].

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-21) stipulates to conflicts of interest through the imposition of the standards of independence and impartiality. Accordingly:

"(a) It is essential to the proper operation of democratic government that public officials be independent and impartial, that governmental decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the governmental structure, that public office not be used for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law, and that there be public confidence in the integrity of government. The attainment of one or more of these ends is impaired whenever there exists a conflict between the private interests of an elected official or a government employee and his duties as such. The public interest, therefore, requires that the law protect against such conflicts of interest and establish appropriate ethical standards with respect to the conduct of elected officials and government employees in situations where conflicts exist" [2].

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-22) affirms that:

"(a) (1) It shall be unlawful for any public official who has limited power for himself or on behalf of any business, or for any business in which such public official or member of his family has a substantial interest to transact any business with the agency for which such public official serves" [2].

Furthermore, since members of the Board of Regents are considered to be part-time public officials with state-wide powers, the prohibitions against transacting business with any state agency as stipulated to in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-24) apply.

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated makes no distinction between "public officials" and (public) "employees" for the required disclosure of business transactions with state agencies as noted in (O.C.G.A. 45-10-26). The requirement for the disclosure of business transactions by the members of the Board of Regents is clearly delineated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-40):

"No member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia or of the Board of Human Resources, no trustee or other officer of any institution which is wholly or in part supported by state funds and no partnership of which such person is a member shall make any contract with the governing board of trustees of such institution or any officer of such institution for the sale and purchase of merchandise or supplies for such institution whereby profit shall accrue to such board member or trustee or such partnership of which such person is a member. Such trustee or officer of such institution shall not make any profit or receive any money for the sale, handling, or disposal of any crop or crops or property of such institution. Such member, trustee, or other officer of such institution shall not make or be interested in any contract for supplies or merchandise for such institution when such contract or the making of the same is wholly or in part made or influenced by the action of the board governing such institution or the trustees thereof or is controlled by any officer of such institution; any and all such contracts are declared to be illegal and void, provided that any such contracts as are described in this Code section may be made with a corporation of which any such board member or trustee is a stockholder if such member or trustee does not vote on or participate in making of such contract" [2].

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-41) outlines the potential penalties that members of the Board of Regents face for violations of (O.C.G.A. § 45-10-40):

"Any member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia or of the Board of Human Services or any trustee or other officer of any institution supported wholly or in part by state funds who violates Code Section 45-10-40 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as prescribed in Code Section 17-10-3. If any member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia or of the Board of Human Services is found guilty of violating Code Section 45-10-40, his office shall become vacant; and it is the duty of the Governor, where the power to fill the vacancy is lodged in the Governor, to appoint some other person to fill the vacancy. If any trustee or other officer of such institution is found guilty of violating Code Section 45-10-40, he shall be discharged from his office in such institution and shall not be eligible to be reelected or reappointed to such office; and the vacancy shall be filled by the board or the authority which, under the law, has the right to fill such vacancy" [2].

Additionally, the Bylaws of the Board of Regents hold members of the Board of Regents to their own standards. Namely, Bylaws of the Board of Regents II: (2) requires that:

"Members of the Board shall not accept gifts, honoraria, or other forms of compensation from University System institutions or cooperative organizations for speaking or other activities at events sponsored by University System institutions" [3]

Moreover, the Bylaws of the Board of Regents IV: (2) sets limits to the use of influence by the members of the Board of Regents thus:

"Except as permitted in these Bylaws or The Policy Manual of the Board, a member of the Board of Regents shall not recommend any person for employment in any position in the University System"[3].

As can clearly be seen, each of these Bylaws is correlated with concerns and spirit of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated as described above.   

This comprehensive set of regulations seen in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and the Bylaws of the Board of Regents forms the a strong policy that serves to effectively prohibit any conflict of interest among the members of the University of West Georgia's governing board.

Supporting Documentation: