Date Adopted: 12/10/2007
Date Revised: 06.24/2014
References: BOR 401.1, 407, 770 ; MCA 2-2-101, 2-2-202 , 2-2-302, 304
Issuing Office: Administration and Finance
Approved By: Susan Briggs
This policy is adopted pursuant to Board of Regents Policy 770 Conflict of Interest, and applies to all contract administrators, professionals, faculty, and staff making financial and business decisions daily including all Business Services, Financial Aid and Registrar personnel and Bookstore management at the University of Montana Western. Faculty or other employees working less than half-time are exempt from submitting the annual Disclosure, but nonetheless are required to comply with the policy. In addition to this policy, the conduct of all public employees is governed by Montana law, Standard of Conduct-Code of Ethics, Title 2,Chapter 2, Part 1, MCA. The University of Montana Western and its employees are committed to conducting all work-related activities in accordance with the highest integrity standards and in full compliance with all ethical and conflict of interest legal requirements applicable to the University and its employees.
Work-related activities in pursuit of Montana Western’s mission often involve sustained interaction and activities of employees with business, government, and community groups, as well as not-for-profit groups, professional societies, other academic institutions, and other individuals and organizations. These interactions create the potential for conflicts of interest to arise.
A conflict of interest may exist whenever an employee’s work responsibilities, actions, or decisions may be influenced by considerations of personal or financial gain through activities, contracts, or engagements undertaken by the employee with non-University entities. Such conflicts, real or apparent, can undermine public and professional confidence in the system, diminish its ability to accomplish its mission, and violate state or federal law. This policy sets forth principles for identifying such potential conflicts and procedures for reviewing and addressing potential conflicts that might occur.
The existence of a conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that the activity at issue violates law or must be avoided or discontinued. Often, conflicts of interest can be dealt with effectively through disclosure and other steps to resolve or manage the conflict. Thus, an integral part of this policy is the disclosure and management system detailed below.
This policy is intended to enable employees to recognize potential conflicting interests and, thus, to protect themselves and the University from such conflicting interests through disclosure, evaluation, and, if required, management or elimination of conflicts of interest. This policy and accompanying procedures are intended to maintain the professional autonomy of employees inherent in research, scholarship, teaching, and all other Montana Western activities. Compliance with this policy by all Montana Western employees is required.
The disclosure mechanism to be used by Montana Western employees is a one-page form entitled “Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement” (Appendix A) The form must be completed and submitted no later than September 30 of each year.
In determining whether a conflict of interest exists, an important consideration is whether an independent observer might reasonably question whether the employee’s professional actions or decisions are influenced by considerations of personal gain, financial or otherwise.
For purposes of this policy, research also includes a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to general knowledge relating broadly to public health, including behavioral and social sciences research. The term encompasses basic and applied research, as well as product development.
In sponsored activities, a conflict of interest occurs when a faculty serving as a principal investigator has financial interests that could affect, or have directly and significantly affected, the design, conduct, or reporting of a sponsored project.
The key mechanism for implementation of this policy is disclosure. Disclosure allows the University and the employee to evaluate personal interests to determine if they present potential conflicts of interest and to take appropriate action based on the evaluation. All contract administrators, professionals, faculty and staff making financial and business decisions daily for Montana Western including Business Services, Financial Aid and Registrar personnel and Bookstore management must complete and submit a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement form annually (Appendix A). All employees, including those exempted from the annual disclosure requirement, are required to comply with this Conflict of Interest policy and to make disclosures of any potential conflicts of interest whenever they occur (using the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement form,Appendix A.)
All employees must disclose the following whenever they occur:
Annually, all contract administrators, professionals, faculty and all staff making financial and business decisions for the University including Business Services, Financial Aid and Registrar personnel and Bookstore management must complete and submit a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement (Appendix A) as follows:
If a conflict of interest exists and is not waiveable, the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance or delegee, in consultation with the employee, the responsible executive level supervisor, and any others deemed helpful in assessing the situation, will develop a written conflict management plan to manage, reduce, or eliminate the potential for conflict of interest. The conflict management plan may employ strategies including, but not limited to, the following:
Whenever a decision is made to manage rather than eliminate the conflict of interest, the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance or delegee, with advice from the Office of Legal Counsel, shall make a written statement explaining why management is in the best interest of the University. Such statement may be included in the conflict management plan. Relevant questions to consider in designing an appropriate conflict management plan include, but are not limited to:
If an employee believes the conditions or restrictions in the conflict management plan are inappropriate, the employee may appeal the decision to the Chancellor. The Chancellor’s decision on the appeal shall be the final decision for Montana Western. The Chancellor may appoint a three-member committee of persons who have no involvement in the decision being appealed and who have relevant experience or training to give him/her advice in coming to a final decision.
An employee who disagrees with the final decision of the Chancellor may appeal further as provided in Board of Regents Policy 203.5.2.
The Montana Western Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance or delegee shall be responsible for maintenance of all disclosure and conflict management records for the period of time required by state and federal laws and regulations. Records will be maintained in a manner to protect sensitive and confidential information consistent with state and federal law.
Montana Western expects all employees to comply fully and promptly with all requirements of this Policy. Breaches of this policy include, but are not limited to:
A violation of this policy may be the basis for discipline of an employee. Such discipline will be imposed consistent with the discipline policies and procedures applicable to the particular employee (collective bargaining agreement, personnel policies and procedures).
Potential sanctions may include, but are not limited to: letter of warning; removal or suspension of privileges related to the violation; suspension without pay; termination.
Other Montana Western polices related to conflict of interest issues include, but are not limited, to the following:
BOR Policy 407, 770; MCA 2-2-101, 2-2-202 , 2-2-302, 304
Chancellor, Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance or delegee
Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement