Question of the Month


Q. I was recently promoted and am now working with third party vendors for the first time. In a recent interaction with a potential vendor, they offered me a “perk” if I picked them to work with. I said no thanks. Was that an attempt to bribe me? What should I do?
 


A: It may or may not have been a bribe attempt, however it could certainly be perceived as such by someone from the outside looking in.  You were right to hesitate.  Outside professional activities, personal financial interests, or acceptance of benefits from third parties can create actual or perceived conflicts between the University's mission and an individual's private interests. Particularly if the vendor has relationships in other parts of your organization, additional due diligence may need to be completed.  

The University Statement of Ethical Values and Standards of Ethical Conduct instructs the University community to "always conduct ourselves ethically, honestly and with integrity."  Additionally the Disqualification Rule under the California Political Reform Act requires that ALL employees (staff and faculty) must disqualify themselves from any University decision involving entities that may affect their personal financial interests. 

General Disqualification Rule: Employees whose financial interests require them to disqualify themselves may not make or participate in any way in the University decision to do business with the entity from which the gifts have been accepted, and may not influence any other person with respect to the decision. (2 Cal. Code of Regs. §18700.)1

  •  You make a decision (2 Cal. Code of Regs. §18704(a).) when, acting within the authority of your office, you:
    • vote on a matter,
    • appoint a person to a position,
    • obligate or commit the University to any course of action,
    • enter into any contractual agreement on behalf of the University
    • Deciding not to do any of these things is also “making a decision”

  • You participate in the making of a decision (2 Cal. Code of Regs. §18704(b).) when, acting within the authority of your University position, you:
    • negotiate with a governmental entity or private person regarding the decision or
    • advise, make recommendations
    • OR use your employee status to influence the decision-maker or any other person with respect to this matter.

  • You Influence a decision (2 Cal. Code of Regs. §18704(c).)
    • Among other things, if an employee communicates with anyone within the University their thoughts on the matter for the purpose of swaying the decision maker, using their position or authority to intimidate the decision maker, or otherwise makes suggestions towards an expected outcome - that employee is attempting to influence a University decision.


SUBMIT YOUR QUESTIONS to conflicts@berkeley.edu.

We can work together to determine what your next steps should be.