Comprehensive Standard 3.2.3: Board Conflict of Interest
The board has a policy addressing conflict of interest for its members.
Issues regarding conflict of interest of members of the USF Board of Trustees (BOT) and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board are covered by Florida statutes and by institutional policy. Since USF Sarasota-Manatee became SACSCOC-accredited in 2011, neither the BOT nor the Campus Board have had a case in which a Board member was forced to recuse him/herself from a board action due to conflict of interest.
USF Board of Trustees
Florida Statute 112.313(1), Standards of Conduct for Public Officers, defines the USF Board of Trustees members as public officers. Accordingly, they are subject to the Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. Florida Statute 112.311, Legislative Intent and Declaration of Policy, establishes standards that address conflict of interest for public officers. Florida Statute 112.313(7a), Conflicting Employment or Contractual Relationship, further prohibits public officers from having or holding any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or agency that is conducting business with the Board of Trustees (BOT) or the USF System, unless the arrangement falls within a legally exempted category.” The statute further precludes Board of Trustees members from having or holding any employment or contractual relationship that regularly creates a conflict of interest between their private interests and their public responsibilities.
Article VII, Code of Ethics, of the USF Board of Trustees Operating Procedures provides that a trustee shall be considered to have a conflict of interest if:
- such Trustee has existing or potential financial or other interests that impair or might reasonably appear to impair such member’s independent, unbiased judgment in the discharge of his or her responsibilities to the university, or
- such Trustee is aware that a member of his or her family, or any organization in which such Trustee (or member of his or her family) is an officer, director, employee, member, partner, trustee, or controlling stockholder, has such existing or potential financial or other interests.
Article VII further requires disclosure of such conflicts of interest and provides for appropriate voting procedures.
All Trustees shall disclose to the Board any possible conflict of interest at the earliest practical time. Furthermore, the Trustee shall absent himself or herself from discussions of, and abstain from voting on, such matters under consideration by the Board of Trustees or its committees. The minutes of such meeting shall reflect that a disclosure was made and that the Trustee who has a conflict or possible conflict abstained from voting. Any Trustee who is uncertain whether a conflict of interest may exist in any matter may request that the Board or committee resolve the question in his or her absence by majority vote. Each Trustee shall annually complete and sign a disclosure form.
Each BOT member also is required to attend a new trustee orientation (New Trustee Orientation Handbook), which provides information regarding conflicts of interests and ethical concerns. Each board member is required by Florida law to abstain from voting on any matter that represents a conflict or potential conflict of interest (FS 286.012; FS 112.3143(2a)).
Additionally, the State of Florida requires trustees, as appointed officials, to file a Statement of Financial Interests disclosure form with the Commission on Ethics each July 1 (FS 112.3145(4b); Statement of Financial Interests Form). These forms are completed by the trustees and are sent directly to the Commission on Ethics.
USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board
USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board members are subject to the same requirements above. In addition, Article VII of the Campus Board Operating Procedures contains the “Code of Ethics” that details the obligations of Campus Board members and the procedures followed if a conflict of interest should arise. The Campus Board members are not employees of the University; are not compensated for their service to the Board; and have no personal, familial, or financial interest in the campus or the University.
To ensure awareness of legislation and policies that relate to conflict of interest issues, new Campus Board members attend a comprehensive Orientation (September 19, 2013, Orientation Minutes). During the Orientation, the General Counsel provides a USF System Presentation and goes over the materials in the New Trustee Orientation Handbook about conflict of interest and other legal matters.
Comprehensive Standard 3.2.4 (External Influence) provides additional information on protecting the university from undue influence.
SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION AND EVIDENCE