Invitation from an Entity (M01-17/18)

A public servant was invited to an event by an entity. The value of the event exceeded $200.00. The entity had previously done work for the Crown in the area in which the public servant works. The entity does not currently have a contract with the Crown. But the entity might in future bid on work for the Crown.

Section 4 prohibits a public servant from accepting a gift from specified persons and entities if a reasonable person might conclude that the gift could influence the public servant when performing his or her duties for the Crown. The persons and entities include those that seek to do business with the Crown. A gift includes a benefit of any kind.

In the circumstances, the ethics executive directed the public servant to decline the invitation.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

 

Operating a Small Business (M02-17/18)

A public servant  operates a small business outside of the public servant’s employment with the Crown.  The public servant is self-employed on a part-time basis. There is no nexus between the public servant’s duties to the Crown and the public servant’s small business. There is no connection between the public servant’s clients and the ministry in which the public servant works.

Section 3 prohibits a public servant from using or attempting to use their employment with the Crown to benefit themselves.

Section 5 prohibits a public servant from disclosing confidential information obtained during the course of their employment with the Crown except where the public servant is authorized to do so.  A public servant is prohibited from using confidential information in a business or undertaking outside of their work for the Crown.

Section 6 prohibits a public servant, when performing their duties to the Crown, from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity.  A public servant must endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given.  A public servant is also prohibited from offering assistance to a person or entity in dealing with the Crown other than assistance given in the ordinary course of the public servant’s employment.

Section 8 prohibits a public servant from engaging in an outside business if the undertaking would interfere with the public servant’s ability to perform their duties to the Crown or, if in connection with the undertaking, any person would derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment as a public servant.

To ensure that the public servant does not use and is not seen as using the public servant’s employment with the Crown to benefit themselves, the ethics executive directed the public servant not to use the public servant’s employment with the Crown to market, promote or solicit clients for the small business. The ethics executive further reminded the public servant of the public servant’s obligation to continue to comply with the conflict of interest rules, including the obligation: not to disclose or use any confidential information derived from the public servant’s employment with the Crown; not to create the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity that could benefit from it; not to offer assistance to a person or entity in dealing with the Crown other than assistance given in the ordinary course of the public servant’s employment; not to allow the small business to interfere with the public servant’s employment with the Crown; not to provide an advantage to any person as a result of the public servant’s employment with the Crown; not to utilize government premises, equipment or supplies for the purposes of the small business.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 3, 5, 6 & 8.

Helping a Spouse’s Business (M03-17/18)

A public servant wanted to work part-time in the business of the public servant’s spouse. The outside employment would occur either on weekends, during vacation or when the public servant is on a leave of absence. There is no nexus between the public servant’s position in the OPS and the outside employment.

Section 8 prohibits a public servant from engaging in an outside business if the undertaking would interfere with the public servant’s ability to perform his or her duties to the Crown or if, in connection with the undertaking, any person would derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment as a public servant.

To mitigate the risk of a conflict, the ethics executive directed the public servant: not to use his or her position with the Crown to attempt to secure any benefit for the spouse’s business; not to use his or her position with the Crown to promote the spouse’s business; not to seek preferential treatment by or privileged access to public servants when carrying out duties for the spouse’s business; not to participate in any activity of the spouse’s business involving the potential or actual provision of goods and services by the spouse’s business to the Crown; and not to identify as an Ontario public servant or act in such a way as to give the impression that the public servant is representing the Crown, when carrying out duties for the spouse’s business.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 8.

Attending a Conference (M04-17/18)

A public servant wanted to attend a conference. A friend of the public servant works in a senior position for the organization hosting the conference. The public servant intended to pay the full conference fee and had no role in the conference other than as an attendee.

Section 6 of O. Reg. 381/07 prohibits a public servant, when performing his or her duties to the Crown, from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity. A public servant must endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given. The ethics executive considered whether the public servant’s attendance at the conference would create the appearance of preferential treatment either to the friend or the friend’s employer.

The ethics executive was satisfied there was a legitimate business rationale for the public servant to attend the conference in issue.

The ethics executive reminded the public servant that the public servant must endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that the public servant is giving preferential treatment to the organization or anyone affiliated with the organization.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 6.

Access to Confidential Information (M05-17/18)

A public servant’s duties to the Crown might potentially give the public servant access to confidential information regarding either (1) the outside entity on which the public servant sits as a member of the Board of Directors or (2) the employer of a family member.

Section 5 of O. Reg. 381/07 prohibits both the disclosure and use of confidential information.

Section 8 of O. Reg. 381/07 prohibits a public servant from engaging in outside activity if, in connection with the employment or activity, any person would derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment.

To mitigate the risk of a potential or perceived conflict under either the rule that prohibits the disclosure or use of confidential information and/or the rule that prohibits a public servant from engaging in an outside activity if any person would derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment, the ethics executive directed the public servant to discuss in advance with the relevant manager any work that may involve either of the two organizations in question so that the manager could either restrict the public servant’s access to confidential information or assign the public servant other work.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 5 & 8.

Selling Things to Other Public Servants (M06-17/18)

A public servant had a part-time side business selling consumer products. All sales took place outside of regular work hours. The public servant’s customers included other public servants. The public servant’s duties to the Crown included, on occasion, an oversight role in respect of other public servants.

Subsection 3(1) of the Conflict of Interest Rules prohibits a public servant from using or attempting to use his or her employment by the Crown to directly or indirectly benefit himself or herself.

Section 6 of O. Reg. 381/07 prohibits a public servant, when performing his or her duties to the Crown, from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity. A public servant must also endeavor to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given.

Paragraph 5 of Section 8 of O. Reg. 381/07 prohibits employment in an outside business if any person would derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment as a public servant or if it would interfere with the public servant’s ability to perform their duties.

The ethics executive determined that the public servant’s side business has the potential to create a conflict of interest. To address the potential conflict of interest, the ethics executive directed the public servant not to use the public servant’s employment by the Crown to market or promote the side business or solicit customers, and to recuse him/herself from oversight activity involving a public servant who is a customer of the side business or who, within the prior 12 months, has been a customer of the side business.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 3, 6 & 8.

Using Letterhead (M01-16/17)

An ethics executive was asked to respond to an inquiry from an MPP regarding the use of ministry letterhead by ministry staff when seeking charitable donations under the auspices of a government-wide charitable campaign.

The ethics executive confirmed that ministry letterhead should not be used when seeking charitable donations, notwithstanding the fact that requesting donations did not constitute a contract, commitment or obligation in any way. The ethics executive also indicated that the ministry would review its processes for running future charitable campaigns to ensure ministry letterhead would not be used.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 8.

Elected Mayor (M02-16/17)

A public servant was elected mayor of a small town (fewer than 1,000) after serving as councillor. One year after their election, the public servant declared a potential conflict of interest to their ethics executive.

The public servant’s mayoral duties were performed outside of normal business hours. The public servant worked in a technical position unrelated to their mayoral duties, so there did not appear to be any overlap between the public servant’s duties and their municipal responsibilities. Nor was there any obvious conflict between the public servant’s responsibilities and the interests of the Crown.

The ethics executive advised the public servant that they should have notified the ethics executive when first elected mayor, rather than one year later. However, the ethics executive also advised the public servant that provided their elected position was not so demanding of their time as to interfere with their duties as a public servant, serving as mayor did not raise a conflict that warranted termination. The public servant was also advised to recuse themselves in any situation where they might have to take a position contrary to the interests of the Crown or which might put them in conflict with the Crown.

PSOA, s. 77 & 79; O. Reg. 281/07, s. 8.

Being a Municipal Councillor (M03-16/17)

A ministry employee was a candidate in a municipal election. Advice was sought as to whether the employee could stand for election, and whether if successful they would have to take a leave of absence from the public service for the duration of the term of office, and if not, whether the employee’s work as a municipal councillor would present a conflict of interest with their public service duties.

Since the employee was not a specially restricted public servant they were permitted to be a candidate in a municipal election. However, section 79 of the Public Service of Ontario Act says that public servants shall not engage in political activity if doing so could conflict with the interests of the Crown or interfere with the public servant’s performance of their duties, unless a public servant has been granted an unpaid leave of absence under section 80. The employee’s ministry had only limited interaction with the municipality in question and the employee’s duties did not include any decision-making regarding the ministry’s relationship with the municipality. Being a municipal councillor would only involve about ten hours of work weekly, outside of the employee’s regular hours. Therefore, it was determined that serving as councillor did not conflict with the interests of the Crown or interfere the public servant’s duties and that a leave of absence was not required.

PSOA s. 77 & 79.

Member of an Advisory Board (M04-16/17)

A senior employee of a ministry sought advice as to whether they could serve as a member of an advisory council to a university-based centre with a mandate affecting the same stakeholder group as the employee’s ministry. The public servant was involved in defining the government’s policy and program priorities affecting the stakeholder group and in making funding decisions concerning its communities, programs and organizations.

The ethics executive concluded that some advisory council responsibilities could raise concerns under conflict of interest rules that prohibit preferential treatment or the deriving of advantage from one’s position as a public servant.

The ethics executive advised the public servant not to participate in discussions concerning sources of centre funding or efforts to solicit provincial funding or to lobby the government in connection with the centre; not to use government premises, equipment or supplies for activities related to the centre; to communicate clearly that they did not participate in the advisory council on behalf of the crown and that any views expressed were personal and did not necessarily reflect those of the Crown; and to recuse themselves from involvement in any discussions or activities that could be construed to be in conflict with the employee’s role as a public servant, and to notify the council of any such conflict.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 6 & 8.