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.

 

Involved in a Steering Committee (P01-17/18)

The public servant is a board member of a public agency.  In this capacity, she is involved in shaping the broader strategy for the public agency.  She has been invited to take part in a steering committee whose mandate is in the same general field as that of the public agency, though the two are not directly related.  As a member of the steering committee, she may be asked to comment on governance structures, funding models, and system planning, among other things.

As a board member for the public agency, the public servant is privy to confidential information touching on governance issues, funding models, and system planning.  Though there is no intersection between the public agency and the steering committee at the present time, there is a potential for the two to overlap in the future, as they operate in the same general field.  In such event, the public servant could potentially be involved in discussions or decision-making at one that could impact the other.

The public servant was reminded of her confidentiality obligations owed to the public agency, and advised to be careful not to reveal any such confidential information to the steering committee, particularly on the topic of the agency’s strategy and planning.  Additionally, she was advised to withdraw from any discussions and decision-making taking place at either the public agency or the steering committee that could impact the other.  The public servant agreed to keep the ethics executive apprised of her work with the steering committee as it progressed, to ensure that any new conflicts could be addressed in a timely manner.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 5, 8 & 9.

 

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.

Ethics Executive Orientation Workshops

Welcome! Ethics executives are an important part of upholding the public’s trust. Ethics executives are responsible for providing advice and making determinations on ethics matters within a public body or government organization.

We believe providing education and support to new and existing ethics executives is an important part of our mandate. Ethics executives need to understand their role and the rules they must use when making decisions on conflicts of interest. They also need to know what support is available to them in making these determinations.

Part of the support our office provides is a 3 hour orientation workshop in Toronto. These workshops are designed for agency chairs and designated ethics executives. Invitees may bring other appointees and senior employees who could benefit from the orientation.

The goal of the orientation workshop  is to help ethics executives understand how and when to engage our office and to build their capacity in making ethical determinations. The Integrity Commissioner of Ontario, who has a responsibility for whistle blowing and several other mandates affecting public servants directly, also joins us in hosting these workshops.

If you are an agency chair or designated ethics executive who has not been oriented, and would like to make sure you are invited to the next workshop, click here and send us a note.