Helping with a Major Sporting Event (C01-16/17)

The public servant is president and CEO of a public body, and as such, maintains a very senior and visible position.  In his spare time, he is involved in certain athletic activities, including volunteering with a local organizing committee for a major sporting event that is planned to be held in Ontario  As part of these volunteer activities, he anticipated being asked to draw on his government relations experience and to assist with provincial grant applications.

A perceived or actual conflict could arise in the event that the public servant participated in any vendor selection processes on behalf of the organizing committee where the vendors could also provide goods or services to the public body.  In addition, given the very senior level held by the public servant at the public body, confusion could be created as to whether there is some sort of relationship between the organizing committee and the public body if he were to become a spokesperson for or be seen to be a public representative of the organizing committee.  This could inadvertently be seen to be an endorsement of the sporting event, and result in a benefit to the organizing committee.  Finally, using his existing government contacts and relationships to push forward applications for provincial grants could result in an advantage being conferred to the organizing committee.

The public servant was advised to refrain from participating in any vendor selections where the same vendors may have, or may make bids for, contracts with the public body.  The public servant was also advised to avoid becoming the “face” of the organizing committee by limiting speaking on its behalf or taking on major promotional actions in support of it.  Finally, the public servant was advised to avoid taking any personal action to persuade or otherwise connect with provincial-level decision-makers on behalf of the organizing committee.

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

 

Maintaining Research Activities (C02-16/17)

The president and CEO of a public body continued to maintain certain research activities which predated his appointment to the public body.  The research activities were housed at an institution that received funding from the public body.  In addition, part of the research activities had the potential to be commercialized and to have an impact on the field in which the public body operates.

As president and CEO, the public servant could potentially be involved at the public body in discussions and decision-making relating to funding for programs that could be impacted by the new technology.  In addition, on a broader level, there might be a perception that he could influence decisions at the public body relating to funding for the institution that housed the research activities, which could ultimately benefit his own research.

The president and CEO agreed to continue to declare his interest in the new technology in the course of any conversations at the public body on the subject, and to withdraw from any decision-making that could impact either the commercialization or use of the new technology.  In addition, the president and CEO agreed to continue declaring his relationship with the external institution, to withdraw from any decision-making that could impact the external institution, and to delegate any decision-making and signing authority for any funding or other agreements with the external institution.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 3, 6, 8 & 9.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Benefiting Self, Part 1 (C04-15/16)

A public body wanted to appoint a chair who was also a recipient of one of the public body’s programs and had a business partner already on the board.

The public body thought it was acceptable for some board members to be program recipients, as such members provided the board with expertise. The public body was aware of the potential for conflict and had developed systems to minimize the impact of such conflict, including limiting the involvement of the board in operational matters related to programs, and requiring members to declare any potential conflicts for the record of every board meeting and recuse themselves from certain discussions and decisions.

The commissioner concluded that these measures could be applied to the new chair and additionally suggested that any potential conflict of interest or political activity matter relating to the chair’s business partner be referred to the commissioner under section 65(6) of the PSOA.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 3, 6, and 9.

Benefiting Self, Part 2 (C05-15/16)

After serving as a member of the board of a public body for twelve years, an individual, with the assistance of two lawyers, had published a citizen’s guide to appearing before the public body. Recently, he was appointed chair of the same public body and was approached by the publisher to prepare a third edition of the guide.

Since the book was initially published long before the individual became chair, and during a period when he was not a public servant, it was the commissioner’s view that s.3 of the Regulation (benefiting self, spouse or children) would not be contravened. The individual was not currently seeking to publish a guide for the first time while chair. For similar reasons, the commissioner believed the publication of the new edition was not a contravention of s. 8(5) of the Regulation. While the chair’s association with the third edition as chair could hypothetically promote sales, the guide was initially published long before, and it was not the case that the individual was being sought out to promote sales of a new book.

The two lawyers who were assisting with research for the new edition sometimes practiced before the public body. To avoid the appearance of preferential treatment, the commissioner directed the individual to recuse himself from any hearing in which either of them appeared as parties.

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

Facilitating Courses for Professional Body (M05-16/17)

A public servant is a member of a professional body. The professional body offers courses that are hosted by organizations for their in-house professionals. The public servant wanted to facilitate courses offered by the professional body. The public servant proposed to do so on the public servant’s own time, using only materials prepared by the professional body.

Section 3 of O. Reg. 381/07 prohibits a public servant from using or attempting to use his or her employment by the Crown to benefit themselves. Section 8 prohibits a public servant from engaging in an outside business or undertaking if, in connection with the business or undertaking, any person would derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment as a public servant. Section 9 prohibits a public servant from participating in decision-making by the Crown with respect to a matter that the public servant is able to influence in the course of his or her duties if the public servant could benefit from the decision.

To mitigate any risk that the public servant could be seen to benefit from employment by the Crown, the ethics executive directed the public servant not to take any assignment where the Ontario government is the host organization if the public servant would be paid for the assignment. The ethics executive also directed the public servant not to promote the professional body’s services within government and not to participate in decision-making as to what training courses professionals in the public servant’s ministry should take. This direction is to mitigate both the risk the professional body could derive an advantage from the public servant’s employment and the risk the public servant could be seen to benefit from decision-making by the Crown in which the public servant participates.

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

Operating a Small Business (M06-16/17)

A public servant provides services to an internal client ministry. The public servant also operates a small business outside of employment by the Crown. The public servant uses similar skills in employment by the Crown and in the outside business.

381/07 prohibits a public servant from using or attempting to use their employment by the Crown to benefit themselves (s. 3). 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 endeavor 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 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 ensure that the public servant did not use and would not be seen as using the public servant’s employment with the Crown to benefit self, the ethics executive directed the public servant not to use the public servant’s employment by the Crown to market, promote or solicit clients for the small business. To mitigate any risk that the public servant’s small business would interfere with the public servant’s ability to perform duties to the Crown, the ethics executive further directed the public servant not to carry on the outside activity during any time for which the public servant is being paid to provide services to the Crown and not to accept as clients of the small business any persons or entities who receive funding from the public servant’s client ministry if there could be a nexus to the public servant’s duties to the Crown.

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